Reactions to Divorce

Reactions to Divorce

Reactions to divorce are not always predictable.  There are so many things to consider in terms of preparing for the reactions children may have to the news of divorce in their family. Parents should be cognizant of several things, including where, when, and how to tell children the news of the parents’ divorce.

Reactions to Divorce

There is a broad range of normal reactions children may have.  It is best to be safe and prepare accordingly. Be sure to talk to children when they are well rested and fed. This will help avoid hungry and tired meltdowns. Also, never talk to kids’ right before a sports’ practice or playdate.  They made need some time to process the information and ask questions. If a child asks a question or has a reaction the parent is not prepared for, it is a good idea for the parent to take a “time out” before responding. Perhaps the parent can say, “That’s a really great question.  I want to answer it honestly and fully for you.  Mommy is going to take a few mints to figure out how to explain it.  Then we’ll talk about it in a little while, okay?”

For younger children, extra hugs and playtime with parents may be a great way to help children cope. For older kids and teens, simply asking, “Is there anything I can do or say that will help you understand this?” Additionally, for all children, try to keep as much in their lives constant as possible.  Meanwhile, their family life may be changing greatly. If possible, keep them on the same schedule of school and sports and playdates.  Try to keep the same rituals of going to church or to Sunday night dinners at Grandma’s house. This will help keep a sense of structure and normalcy in light of the change. If you have any concerns about your child’s feelings or reactions to the news of divorce, contact a school counselor or family therapist for a consult as soon as possible.

Heading off any difficult adjustment issues is key.  Getting the child as vast a support system as possible during this time of transition.

Written by: Lisa Rene Reynolds, PhD

Dr. Reynolds is an assistant professor of Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program at Iona College outside of New York City. She is the author of countless books, articles, and blogs on divorce and parenting, and her newest book, Parenting through Divorce: Helping Your Kids Thrive During and After the Split, is available wherever books are sold.

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