Motherhood Moment

"Divorce one of the most challenging experiences, but it is especially difficult when there are children involved. Parents know children are the most important equation in the separation, but somehow they oftentimes get caught in the middle of the “war.” Even if the divorce is not contentious the changes to the family unit can be devastating for children, and the repercussions can follow them into adulthood and have detrimental effects on their lives if not addressed properly.

So how do you best protect children from the pain and negative ramifications of divorce? The answer is with love, honest (age appropriate) communication, and successful co-parenting. Even the strictest adherence to these suggestions will not eliminate all the painful effects divorce can have on children, but will allow more ease throughout the process, create stronger relationships between parents and children, and provide children with a roadmap for handling new circumstances and patterns. Let’s review:

Love:  As parents we know that children need love in their lives more than anything. It is what helps them grow both physically and mentally/emotionally, builds their confidence, and makes them feel secure. To go from a two parent home to sharing homes and times with each parent can of course be traumatic, and studies have shown that children can suffer in many ways from these changes related to divorce – from withdrawing socially, doing poorly in school, becoming anxious or depressed, to drug/alcohol use and issues with relationships later in life, to name a few.

For these reasons it is imperative that parents hold a safe, loving space for their children before, during and after divorce. One way to do so is of course through expression of love verbally and physically, and also by keeping patterns in place. Patterns can be schedules like homework time and dinnertime (preferably eating together to discuss the day), to extracurricular activities. This is especially important since parents will no longer be living together, which creates stress and divergence from established patterns, so the more you can keep other parts of their lives scheduled and stick close to familiar patterns, the easier the transition.

Honest Communication: Communication is key to any relationship, but especially when it comes to children in divorce situations. Children rely on direction from their parents; keeping the lines open throughout divorce is critical, and must be age-appropriate. The most important thing no matter the age is to let them know both parents love them, will be there for them, and that you will all get through the changes together even though the family dynamic will/has changed.

If you need more specific guidance for your children I suggest checking related books and online information, as well as seeking the advice of a qualified psychologist or therapist specializing in how to approach this sensitive topic with your children. Very young children (toddlers, 3-5 year olds), 6-8 year olds, high school aged and older all have different communication needs, but no matter the age all children will require assurance of love within the parent-child relationship, knowledge they are not at fault for the divorce, calming any fears of change, and explanations of what will remain the same and what will change within the family dynamic and their daily lives. The attention you put into communication with your children early on and throughout your divorce can make all the difference – for the rest of their lives.

Successful Co-parenting: This is the area where you may need to find inner strength to put aside your personal feelings, control your emotions and put your children first, and it is especially difficult in tense divorce situations where there are a lot of negative emotions. Realizing there are some divorces where communication between the adults is impossible, this still needs to be accomplished; find a way to work it out (whether you appoint a third party to help or work through attorneys until you feel you can take over). It is beyond critical that you put your children’s needs first when it comes to co-parenting. Learning to let go is part of this, as well as recognizing that any societal/religious/familial/cultural viewpoints that have been ingrained within your belief system since you were young (e.g. divorce is “wrong,” “bad,” or means you are a “failure,” to name a few) are not reality and also need to be let go. Focus on the love that BOTH of you have for your children. In my book I discuss how to change the mindset to viewing divorce as the positive, personal growth potential it truly is – this is the key to not only co-parenting, but also to finding your bliss after divorce. 

Putting children first means that you and the other parent need to set aside time to plan – from the children’s living arrangements to school and extracurricular activities, appointments and more. Controlling emotions during these planning sessions and focusing on the task at hand is the only way to go – if you treat it like a business relationship it will be easier. Set aside time each week or every other week (whatever is needed) to discuss the schedule. For some this is easier to do via email – texting can be laborious unless there are few or no changes to the schedule. But making sure to plan the time to go through the schedules will benefit both parents and children.

Above all both parents need to be empathetic, patient, sensitive and show extra love with the children. It is also important not to argue in front of them and to use your parental hawk senses to notice if they need extra help coping, such as therapy. This of course is age-dependent and you know your children better than anyone, but signs of withdrawal, acting out or grades dropping could be indicators they need professional help. 


This article presents a broad overview of children’s needs during and after divorce. There is so much more information available on this subject. Due to the sensitivity it is recommended to get professional help that resonates with your family when needed. The more you do to lighten the impact working together as parents with a common goal (as much as possible), the better the results for your children and your family."

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