Kids may feel that they are somehow responsible for the painful event if divorcing parents do not take the time to reassure them otherwise. As noted by USA Today, children may think that they could have done something to prevent the breakup, or that it happened because they “were bad.” In spite of the stress felt by the divorcing parents, the advice given by child psychologists is to remain mindful of the kids’ needs.
Reassuring children that the divorce is not happening because of them is a first step toward helping to reduce their anxiety over the breakup. They may not, however, be ready to hear about the actual causes for the split. Depending upon their age, they may lack the understanding required to fully grasp the complexities of adult relationships. Going into too much detail could also cause a child to take sides and place all of the blame on one parent.
It may be best to explain the causes for the breakup on a need-to-know basis and refrain from bringing up negative details. What kids need to hear most are words of reassurance that they are loved by both parents and that there is a shared commitment to their well-being. They will most likely be concerned about their security and the continuation of day-to-day routines. Providing reassurances that there will be a continuation of sharing meaningful and enjoyed activities after the divorce may go a long way toward putting kids’ minds at ease.
As reported by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children have a better chance to adjust to post-divorce living arrangements when both parents demonstrate their willingness to accommodate their kids’ needs. If possible, a positive discussion with both parents present could be the ticket to providing children with the required assurance that things can work out for the best.