Divorce 101

The Impact of Separation & Divorce on Children and How to Support Them

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

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The Impact of Divorce on Children and How to Support Them

Divorce can have profound effects on children, both emotionally and practically. Understanding these impacts and providing the right support is essential for helping children navigate this challenging transition. 

1. Emotional and Behavioural Changes

Children may react to divorce with a range of emotions and behaviours. Younger children might show signs of separation anxiety, regression in behaviour, or increased clinginess. Older children and teenagers may display anger, sadness, withdrawal, or even risk-taking behaviours. It’s crucial for parents to recognize these responses as normal reactions to a significant life change and offer reassurance and understanding. 

2. Supporting Through Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of helping children cope with divorce. Start by having age-appropriate conversations with your children about the divorce. Emphasize that it is not their fault and that both parents still love them. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns, and actively listen without judgment. Create a safe space where they can openly discuss their emotions. 

3. Consistency and Routine

The stability of routines can provide a sense of security for children during a divorce. It’s essential to establish and maintain consistent daily routines, including bedtime, mealtime, and school schedules. Additionally, work with your ex-spouse to create a consistent visitation schedule, as predictability can help children adjust to the new circumstances. 

4. Co-Parenting Positively

Co-parenting after divorce requires collaboration and communication between parents. Focus on the child’s best interests and prioritize their needs over personal conflicts. Maintain respectful and open communication with your ex-spouse, and consider using tools like a shared parenting calendar to coordinate schedules. Attend parenting classes or counseling to improve co-parenting skills if necessary. 

5. Professional Support for Children

In some cases, children may benefit from professional support through counseling or therapy. If you notice persistent emotional or behavioural issues, consider seeking the help of a child psychologist or therapist. These professionals can provide children with coping strategies and emotional support during this challenging time. 

6. Educational Impact

Divorce can affect a child’s academic performance due to emotional distress or changes in their living situation. Monitor your child’s academic progress closely and communicate with their teachers about the divorce situation. Consider involving the school counselor to provide additional support and resources to help your child succeed academically. 

7. Involving Other Family Members

Extended family members can play a crucial role in supporting children during divorce. Encourage positive relationships between your child and extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. These relatives can offer emotional support, stability, and a sense of belonging during this challenging time. 

8. Legal Considerations for Children

Familiarize yourself with the legal rights and best interests of your children within the context of divorce. Understand the legal aspects of parenting and child support. Ensure that legal decisions prioritize your child’s well-being and provide a stable and supportive environment. 

9. Preparing for Transitions

If divorce involves significant changes, such as moving to a new home or changing schools, prepare your children for these transitions. Provide them with ample information and emotional support to help them adjust smoothly. Keep communication open and address any concerns or fears they may have about these changes. 

10. Long-Term Support

Recognize that the effects of divorce on children can be long-lasting. Be prepared to offer ongoing emotional support, reassurance, and stability as your children continue to grow and develop. Maintain open lines of communication and be attentive to their changing needs throughout their childhood and adolescence. Seek professional help if required to address any lingering emotional challenges. 

In conclusion, divorce is a complex and emotional process, especially for children. Providing substantive support through effective communication, consistency, co-parenting cooperation, professional help when needed, and a strong support system can significantly help children navigate this difficult journey and promote their well-being. 

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.