Dealing With Divorce - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Dealing With Divorce

Posted: Updated:

Dealing With Divorce


Divorce can be wrenching when kids are involved, but there's a lot you can do to help children cope.  If you're a parent dealing with divorce, try to remember your child needs you now more than ever.  Offering reassurance, hope, and a sense of stability can help ease the effects of divorce on children of all ages.

Do's & Don'ts

Isolina Ricci, PhD, a family therapist and author of  Mom's House, Dad's House, says "When children are free to love both of their parents without conflict of loyalty, to have access to them both without fear of losing either, they can get on with the totally absorbing business of growing up, on schedule."



The following nine tips are recommended to help minimize the negative effects of divorce on your kids:


1. Don't confide in your children about adult concerns like disagreements with your spouse or money worries.  Find a friend or therapist to confide in instead.


2. Don't "bad mouth" your ex-spouse.  If you have a dispute with him or her, don't expose your children to your conflicts and frustration.


3. Don't quiz your children about the other parent or what goes on at the other parent's house.  It's fine to ask general questions about your child's time there, but don't snoop.


4. Don't introduce major changes in your child's life if you can help it.  Try to keep to your usual family routines and community ties.


5. Do continue to parent as you always have.  You may feel guilty that your kids have to cope with divorce, but it won't help to shower them with special gifts or let them stay up late.  They'll feel more secure if you're firm and consistent.


6. Do encourage kids to call the other parent when they have news or just to chat.  Keep the other parent informed about school events and other activities.


7. Do learn more about how to help your child cope with divorce.  Many national organizations can help families understand the effect of divorce on children, such as the San Francisco-based nonprofit Kids' Turn, which offers workshops for kids and parents.


8. Do get help for a child having trouble coping with divorce.  A young child may show regressive behavior like excessive clinginess or bedwetting, while an older child may become angry, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed, or have problems in school.  A therapist can provide a safe place for your child to express his or her feelings.


9. Do seek help if you and your ex-spouse can't interact without hostility.  A family therapist or professional mediator can help you develop a more friendly communication style - one with fewer negative effects on your kids.


Since you may have years of co-parenting ahead of you, learning to get along with your ex-spouse may be the greatest gift you can give your child - and the best way to help your child cope with divorce.  




How to Ease the Effects of Divorce on Children


Most experts agree that two factors influence how well children cope with divorce:

  • The level of hostility and conflict between parents
  • Parental acceptance and adjustment to the break-up


Use these two guideposts as you and your ex-partner begin to set up separate lives.  If you have a hostile relationship, or if either of you is having trouble accepting the break-up, take steps to improve the situation - with professional help if necessary - to help your child cope with divorce.


Susan S. Coats, a family law attorney in Marin County, California, who specializes in dispute resolution for families, urges divorcing parents to focus on the positive as they set about creating new lives.  "Something is ending, yes, but at the same time you are starting something new, "she says.  "For your child's sake, you need to work as hard as you can to create two new families, and it will take both parents to make sure that the new families flourish."

Conversations to Help Kids Cope with Divorce

How you tell children about an impending divorce will have a lot to do with your child's age, your living situation, and the degree of tension between you and your spouse.  


If you have older children, give them some time to get used to the news by talking to them at least a month before you and your spouse begin living apart.  If your child is a toddler, you can wait to talk a week or so before any big changes, since kids this age have little sense of time.  Even very young children will be reassured if you acknowledge the upcoming change, even if they can't yet understand the precise meaning of your words.



Guidelines for Talking with Kids about Divorce


  • If at all possible, have both parents present for the discussion.
  • Timing is key.  Pick a relaxed time of day, when there are no impending commitments.
  • Use simple language and keep the conversation short and to the point.  For example:  "Your father and I have grown apart.  We care about each other, but we don't want to be married anymore."
  • Acknowledge that it's a sad situation and that your child is likely to experience big, painful feelings.  Allow your child to cry, become angry, or have other natural reactions.
  • Let kids know that you also feel sad.  At the same time, reassure them that both parents love them and will keep them safe, whether you are together or not.
  • Children often feel responsible or blame themselves when their parents break up, so reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault.
  • Give concrete details, if you can, about the new living arrangement.  For example, "You will be living with me every other weekend."
  • Avoid blaming the other parent.  Even if the break-up was triggered by a parent's affair or a substance abuse problem, this isn't the time to share adult problems with a child.  Perhaps later, when kids are in their teenage years, you may want to share more information.

Information Compiled by: Michelle Young, M.S., Ed


Books to Read

For the Children's Sake: Parenting Together After the Marriage Ends

by Brenda Dozier

Families Apart: Ten Keys to Successful Co-Parenting by Melinda Blau

Growing Up Divorced by Linda Bird Francke

Making Divorce Easier on Your Child: 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust by Nicholas Long & Rex Forehand

Solo Parenting: Raising Strong and Happy Families by Diane Chambers

The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thriveby Robert E. Emery



*All of the books listed above are available for check-out from The Centers' Parent Resource Center.

Upcoming Classes to be Aware of:


Parenting the Child with ADHD

for parents dealing with a child with ADHD

Tuesday Mornings, 10am-Noon

June 4th through June 25th (4 sessions)

$30 per person or $40 per couple

Facilitated by: Sharon Long, M.S.


Mental Health First Aid

learn the signs and symptoms of someone suffering from mental illness, or severe emotional issues & how to handle a crisis situation (CEU's available)

Tuesday, June 25th & Wednesday, June 26th

8:30 am - 3:30 pm

Bess Chisum Stephens Community Center

Registration Fee: $190 or 501.666.8686 ext 3502 to register if you have questions or would like to register for a class online.

 Seats are limited! 
Call today to reserve your spot.



Centers for Youth and Families
Parent Resource Center
5905 Forest Place
Little Rock, AR 72207

Our Lending Library offers books, videos and handouts on various parenting topics and is open to the public. Borrowing books is FREE! Come in soon.