Divorce isn't Easy for Anybody
Divorce isn't easy for anybody, but it can be particularly difficult for children. This is even more true for younger children, whose cognitive abilities and limited coping skills can make things a bit more tricky. Young children tend to be egocentric and have what we call "magical thinking", believing that things happen because of them, or because of something they did. They may think things such as, "If I listened better, mommy and daddy wouldn't break up," or, "I didn't go to bed on time and that's why mommy and daddy aren't together anymore." Funny thing is, you won't always hear them say this, but you can pretty much count on it going on inside their little heads.
Minimizing Stress on Young Children
Parents typically have great concerns about how their children will manage and how they will survive the divorce without any lasting effects. There are things parents can do, to minimize the stress of the divorce on young children.
1. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT
Remind young children frequently that there is nothing they could have done, said or thought that would have caused the divorce. You'll need to do this more than once, though. This is not a one-time conversation. Just like young children need to be shown many times how to zip a zipper, tie a shoe and brush their teeth, they'll need to be told the divorce is not their fault more than once.
2. YOU ARE LOVED
Give an abundance of hugs and physical contact. Your child will need this now more than ever.
3. BE KIND WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT YOUR CHILD'S OTHER PARENT
We know this won't be easy, and in many cases it will be a stretch, but it is necessary if your end goal is to have a happy, well-adjusted child. Don't pull your child into an adult problem.
4. A TANGIBLE SOMETHING OR OTHER
A divorce will bring new periods of separation for your child and you. Keep your child connected to you, even when you are apart...give your child a picture of you and him together, or a special stuffed animal to remind him that you are thinking of him while you are apart.