Most everyone understands that divorce is hard on children. The family unit is their safe place where they can explore and express themselves to prepare for their adult lives.
When parents divorce, children face multiple major changes all at once. They may move to a different home or have to go back and forth between houses. Their schedules and their standard of living will likely change.
Children and teenagers often act out during and after a divorce. Disciplinary issues and reduced performance at school are known consequences of parents divorcing. Much of that behavior stems from the intense fears that children experience when their family unit changes, and you can reduce their stress by assuaging their fears. What concerns will likely dominate your children’s minds during a divorce?
They worry that they are the reason you filed for divorce
Children have well-developed egos even at a young age and can have a hard time understanding that situations don’t always center on them. Many children and teenagers will instinctively assume that something they did or a failing on their part is the reason that their parents intend to divorce.
If one child recently had issues at school or health problems, their sense of guilt may increase as a result. The only way to diffuse this fear is to confront it head-on when you tell the children about the divorce. Explaining that the decision is a reflection of your relationship with one another and has nothing to do with the children can help.
They worry that they will have to choose between parents
Children absorb information from popular media and the stories that their classmates tell at school. What they know of divorce may not have a basis in current family law, but it can cause them stress even if it is incorrect.
Children may worry that they will have to choose one parent or the other. They may think they will have to testify in court or that their parents will put them on the spot and make them choose where they want to live.
You and your ex can help with this fear by acknowledging that shared custody is almost always the outcome of divorces with children. You can let your children know that you will share parental responsibilities and that they won’t have to make a choice in court about where they live.
If you acknowledge and address the fears that your children have when you file for divorce, you will make it easier for them to adjust to your new family circumstances. Preparing before you tell your children about your divorce and shared custody arrangements will reduce how stressful the conversation is for your children.