Going through a divorce can be an emotionally devastating experience for everyone involved. Even if the decision to split up was mutual, calling an end to a long-term relationship is never easy.
Unfortunately, children often feel the effects of a divorce even more than their parents. They may not fully understand what is happening and may lack the coping skills to deal with the intense emotions that arise. They may also blame themselves or wonder if there was anything that they could have done to prevent their parents from divorcing.
Sadly, emotional issues that arise during this trying time can last long after the divorce is finalized. In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on the long-term effects of divorce found that children of divorced parents were inclined to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure” even after six years had passed. 
The good news is that there are steps that you can take to help your family heal after divorce. Here are some of the most effective strategies for helping your children and yourself through this difficult time:
- Do your best to stay on good terms with your ex. Ongoing conflict only serves to deepen your children’s emotional wounds. Even if you and your ex don’t get along in private, you should make an effort to avoid confrontation or conflict when your children are around.
- Stick to your regular schedule as much as possible. Young children are particularly sensitive to unexpected changes in their routines. Although some changes are inevitable, do your best to avoid altering your children’s schedule too much. A familiar daily routine will help give them a sense of stability.
- Be honest with your children. Kids don’t need to know all of the details of why you are getting divorced. However, they do need to know what is going on. Don’t keep them in the dark. Instead, speak openly and honestly with them about the changes that they can expect. Answer any questions that they may have. Also, ask them questions about how they feel so that they know that it is okay to talk about their emotions and express how they are feeling.
- Make sure that your children understand that it is not their fault. This is particularly important for young children. Oftentimes, children blame themselves when parents get divorced. That is a tremendous burden to bear. By assuring them that they had nothing to do with your decision to split up, you can ease their mind, releasing them from any feelings of guilt.
Healing your family’s emotional wounds after a divorce is not an easy process. Like all losses, there is a grieving process that accompanies a divorce. By helping your children work through the many emotions that arise, you can minimize the risk of long-term emotional problems developing after the divorce. Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is to let your children know that you and your ex still love them deeply and that your decision to split up was not their fault.