How to Minimize the Psychological Effect of Divorce on You and Your Children

mother with child under blanket
Mar 7, 2017 | Sara Khaki

There’s no question divorce carries a heavy psychological burden. You are in mourning for the death of your marriage, and that’s natural, no matter your current feelings towards your spouse. Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t hide your feelings or pretend you’re just fine when your inner world is collapsing. Talk to trusted family and friends, and let them know how you are feeling. If necessary, speak with your clergy or schedule an appointment with a therapist.

  • Take time to appreciate what is good about your life. Face your fears head on. Remember that “this too shall pass.”
  • Find new interests. Indulge in a hobby or other activity you’ve long wanted to pursue or you’ve had to put aside. Divorce is an ending but also a beginning. Think about what you want to do and accomplish in this next chapter of your life.
  • You may have stayed in the marriage longer than you wanted to because of the kids. That decision also entails a psychological burden, and now it is beginning to lift.
  • For best results, “stay calm and carry on.” That’s easier said than done, but staying as calm as possible during the throes of a divorce is ultimately beneficial. Do not sweat the small stuff. If your spouse demands a certain article, such as a piece of furniture, agree to it unless there’s a really good reason you shouldn’t. Pettiness and vindictiveness over material objects also translate into higher legal bills for the time spent on them. If you stay calm, your spouse is more likely to agree to let you have the items you want.

How to Tell Your Children

Depending on your children’s ages and the circumstances of your marriage, they may suspect you are divorcing. Even if the news doesn’t come as a complete surprise, it’s still a difficult situation for your kids.

While you should tell your children the truth, do not place blame on one parent or air ugly facts. “We don’t get along anymore” is an acceptable, and accurate, statement.

Transitioning Your Children

Both parents – together – should discuss the divorce with the children. Let them know they are still loved and cherished by both of you, even though if you are no longer married. Children of divorce tend to fear abandonment or worry that they are not good enough to be loved. That outcome does not have to happen if neither parent abandons them and if both show their love deeply and genuinely.

Anticipate their questions and reactions, and have a plan prepared. This is a scary time for them, so assure them that although their lives will be different, they are still part of a family. Here are things to consider:

  • Let them know that, in the long run, this is the best decision for everyone.
  • Assure them constantly that the divorce is not their fault.
  • Do not speak badly of the other parent in front of the children.
  • While certain things in their lives will change, let them know others will stay the same.
  • When with your children, support the other spouse using both words and actions.
  • Stay open and informative with your children about the changes that are occurring, so they do not feel you are hiding anything.
  • Your kids may express anger or sadness. That’s natural, so accept it. Don’t negate their feelings.

Once the news has settled in, help your children put the best light on the situation. If there are any positive aspects, point them out. Perhaps they can get a new pet – maybe a dog at one house and a cat at the other. They can have two of their favorite toys, one at each house.  The goal is to help them ease into the change as easily as possible given the circumstances.

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