In addition to keeping their own mental health in check, divorcing couples with children must make sure their sons and daughters are coping with the transition. But depending on their ages, it can be hard to determine exactly how your kids feel about your divorce. Teenagers in particular can be impossible read under any circumstances, for example. No matter what their ages, sometimes it can be easier to gauge their feelings about your divorce by their actions.
Here are some observations that can be particularly telling:
1. Your kids are siding with one parent. This could warrant an examination of your own behavior, especially if one of you is badmouthing the other. But it could also be a sign that your children feel compelled to intercede and protect one of you. Assure them that the divorce is an adult problem, and that they should focus on being kids.
2. The kids are clinging to each other. Your children may feel you don’t have time to be a parent right now, and as a result are relying much more heavily on each other. Rather than allow them to take on more responsibility than they need to, assure them that you and your spouse are there for them.
3. Your child is unwilling to spend much time outside of the house. Sometimes kids believe that if they stick around their parents, they won’t fight. Assure your son or daughter that it’s not up to them to play marriage counselor, and that you’ll find ways to resolve your differences on their own.
4. Your child’s school performance or behavior has changed. Sometimes this can be a change for the better, but whether the grades and conduct go up or down, it usually means something. Many kids think that if they work extra hard on being good, your divorce-related problems will clear up. Again, you’ll need to assure them that the divorce isn’t about them.
Bear in mind that verbal assurances alone often won’t work on your kids. More effective is showing them that you and your spouse are managing the divorce well, which will help them focus on what they should do: Focus on being an ordinary kid, rather than a marriage counselor.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Are the Kids Alright?” Marie Hartwell-Walker, June 7, 2012