Helping Kids Adjust to a Divorce
Even when a divorce is the right call for a relationship, it can be a difficult process. Children of divorce, in particular, can have a tough time adjusting. Our clients often ask for advice on how to help their kids through the process. While every family is different, some steps are generally helpful for easing a family through and after the divorce process. Read on for a few tips to help your children adjust to a divorce, and contact a dedicated Chicago child custody and divorce attorney with any questions or for help with an Illinois divorce.
Keep conflict away from the children
Children are more perceptive than we often credit them for. They will intuitively understand that divorce is a difficult process for their parents, even at a young age. But that does not mean that the divorcing parties need to expose the children to the most negative aspects. Both parties should strive to avoid having heated discussions, visible conflict, and legal talk such as fights over assets around the kids. This also extends to spreading negativity about the other spouse: Keep blame and anger to therapy or discussions with friends or family outside the home. Badmouthing your spouse around or to your child generally does more harm than good, both to your kids’ mental health and to your divorce. It is generally better to remain positive throughout the process.
Minimize disruption to the kids’ daily routines
Divorce means change, no matter the circumstance. The more consistent you can keep your kids’ lives during and after the process, the easier it will be for children to adjust. If possible, it helps to keep the kids at the same school, playing the same sports or other extracurricular activities, and otherwise tied to the same daily routine.
Keep both parents involved in the children’s lives
Kids generally benefit from continued contact and involvement with both parents. Kids will fear that divorce means “losing” one parent or the other, and the more you can do to assuage this worry, the better.
There is one important caveat: If one spouse has been violent or abusive, then take all appropriate steps to protect yourself and your children. Let the authorities know, let your attorney know, let the court know, and get yourself and your family away from any immediate danger.
Be supportive of your kids and encourage open dialogue
Children want to be heard and want to have their feelings validated by their parents. Encourage them to put their feelings into words and to express their cares and their worries to you. Let them know that you value their feelings and that they are appropriate feelings to have, even as you reassure them that things will get better as you all adjust to the new circumstances.
Be prepared to answer your kids’ questions
When you break the news to your kids, they will likely have a lot of questions about what this means for you, for them, and your family. Being prepared to answer these questions will help you reassure your children and assuage their fears. Kids may ask questions such as:
- Where will I live?
- Do I need to change schools?
- Where will each parent live?
- Where will we spend the holidays?
- Will I get to see both parents? When?
- Can I still go to camp / play my sport / take dance lessons / etc.?
Kids may also have questions about court proceedings. You may not want to tell your kids about these too far in advance, to avoid undue stress, but if the kids will need to testify in court, you should tell them far enough in advance to mentally prepare. Be direct with them about the process, and encourage them to simply be honest.
GET LEGAL HELP FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN IN AN ILLINOIS DIVORCE
If you’re considering divorce in Illinois, contact the compassionate, professional, and experienced Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.