If I Get Divorced, Will My Kids Adjust?

Problem: Sadly, my husband and I are probably going to get divorced. However, we both have some hesitation because we don’t want our kids, ages 6, 8 and 11, to be unhappy or to suffer if we end up divorced. What can you tell us about how divorce will affect our kids and how to help them through it?

Do you really think it’s possible to get a divorce and have your children not suffer? Divorce is terribly difficult for all children. While you might not be able to save your marriage (although you should put a lot of effort into trying), if you opt to divorce, you must consistently plug away at helping your children get through their difficult times. In the meantime, you are certainly doing the right thing by giving thought to how divorce will impact your kids.

Although I don’t know the reasons why you’re thinking of getting a divorce, generally couples are not willing to sacrifice their happiness and needs for the sake of their children. Even with debates and controversy over whether couples should stay together for their children, it’s important to consider that kids all of ages benefit from a stable family, with loving, dedicated and involved parents.

Strategies: Please don’t take offense to hearing difficulties children experience as a result of divorce, including, embarrassment, guilt, worry, anger , betrayal and fear. I will offer some suggestions and pointers, but keep in mind, there are no magical answers as to how to make a divorce easy or free of pain for children.

Do keep your problems to yourselves–always. Support each other when you speak to your children. Get along in front of your children, even when it takes great restraint and willpower. Spend time with your kids–both of you. Even in divorce you teach your children about getting along, relationships, and the importance of parenting.

Don’t hesitate to get into therapy. Both of you, for the sake of your kids, should go to counseling. Consider individual sessions for your children. Remind your children that your divorce was not caused by them in any way.

Do make sure that you tune into your kids feelings of sadness and loss. Understand their wish for you to stay together. Divorce can be such a strain on both of you, that you can easily (unintentionally) neglect to show concern for your children’s feelings and needs.

Don’t expect your kids to accept having their lives, including their interests, activities, and times with friends, disrupted because of your needs. Make sure arrangements are not made for you and your husband’s convenience. Consider your children’s input and feelings when discussing changes they may have to adjust to.

Do understand that kids are not as resilient as you may be led to think. It helps to create an atmosphere in your home where your children learn that they can talk when they need and want to about their thoughts and feelings. If any of your children act as though everything is fine, they are simply keeping their anxious feelings inside.

Don’t be blind to changes in your kids behaviors. They may all carry the belief that they are partly responsible for your divorce. Your 6 year old may become clingy, worrying that if one parent can leave, what’s to hold the other back from leaving. The 8 year old may fall behind in school or wonder if her activities will be interrupted, and your 11 year old may wish to spend more time with friends as a way of escaping the way she feels at home and avoiding feelings of loneliness.

Do look at the long-term impact. Due to the difficulties kids experience as a result of divorce, they may hesitate, when older, to get into a committed relationship; they are often fearful of marriage. They worry about the possibility of divorce happening to them and putting their children through what they experienced.

Bottom Line: While some divorces are certainly necessary, generally children endure way too much as a result of their parents being unable to work differences and unhappiness out within their marriages. Children should be able to go through their lives focusing on their own growth, learning, and interests, and not be bogged down with issues and worries including: Will both parents be at my birthday parties? soccer games? graduation? And who will walk me down the isle when I get married? What about my grandparents? Will my parents remarry…. So, go forward and make this decision very, very, carefully.

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