Parenting in the Midst of Divorce

by: Pam Adams, LCSW-Intern
Supervised by: Stephanie Washington MSW, Ed.D., LCSW-S

Breaking up a marriage is hard for everyone.  Kids can feel hit the hardest by the end of their parents’ love relationship.  Some children are asked to be peacemakers for fighting spouses, at the same time they are grieving a parent who has suddenly moved out.  Other children may have to deal with parents who out of the blue can’t cope with everyday tasks. 


While a parent is in the midst of a divorce amid a rollercoaster of emotions and distractions, it can be hard to remember to look after their childs needs, especially emotional ones.     
Helpful Hints for Divorced Parents:
1.     With the loss of one parent from the home, your child needs structure because to them everything seems to be falling apart.  Your child needs acceptance and assurance that they still have a solid family.  The key is to maintain normal routines, a predictable family life and a sense that their life will not continue to change on them.  Discipline needs to be consistent and with positive consequences for good behavior. 
2.     Children frequently believe that they are somehow to blame for the divorce.  You need to reassure them that the divorce is between you and your ex and about that relationship only.  Tell them that they are blameless and the divorce is not about anything they have done or not done.
3.     Avoid making the child the messenger between you and your ex.  This causes a child a great deal of emotional stress.  It also forces them to deal with a situation that you and your ex could not handle. 
4.     Do not allow your child to be the person you confide in.  If you need someone to talk to, either talk to a friend or if you feel you need more help, find a therapist for yourself.  Your child needs to be able to be a child and not handle adult problems. 
5.     Try to understand your child.  After a divorce, children may be in emotional turmoil.  Listen to what they say.  Don’t tell them how they should feel or think.  As hard as it may be, avoid criticizing your ex in front of your child.  Respond specifically to what they are telling you.  “It sounds like you are feeling mad about your dad’s new girlfriend?”  Stay focused on your child’s feelings, not yours. 
6.     If you feel that you have made mistakes with your children during the divorce process, it is o.k. to identify to them what you did wrong and apologize for it to your child.  Saying  you are sorry goes a long way with children in terms of healing.