Divorce: Helping your child cope with the breakup

More than a million children a year experience their parents’ divorce. It’s a stressful time for the entire family, full of changes for everyone involved. Children are creatures of habit and routine, so divorce often turns their world upside down.

The good news is that you can make your child’s adjustment to these changes much easier, simply by the way you choose to interact with your spouse.

How to tell them

It’s best if you and your spouse can tell your children about the divorce together. Make sure the children understand that you both still love them and will take care of them. Speak honestly and simply, and skip the ugly details.

Use simple phrases like: "Your mom (or dad) and I have been having trouble getting along, so we think it’s best for us to live apart."

Anxiety and anger

Initially, children may be most interested in concrete things, such as where they’ll live and what school they’ll attend. Try to make arrangements that disrupt their routines as little as possible. Even if things must change drastically, establish new routines and then stick to them. This helps children of all ages feel more secure.

Your child may respond to the stress of divorce with strong emotions — anxiety, grief, depression or even relief. But the most common response is anger. This anger may turn inward, resulting in depression and withdrawal, or it may turn outward and cause behavioral problems.

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