Helping Children Through Divorce or Separation

Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be particularly tough on kids.

Fear, denial, sadness — these are just some of the emotions children can experience when their parents split up. Some kids blame themselves, others get angry, and almost all feel as though their world is being ripped apart.

What children often don't understand is that divorce ends a marriage, but not a family. Parents are still parents, and kids need their guidance to get through this transition. Specifically, parents must be honest, supportive, and keep an eye out for behavioral changes. Also, legal separation also requires parents to be aware of their children's behavior because it has different grounds to be considered official compared to a divorce and may be harder to explain to children.

mom comforting child during divorceFor divorcing couples, “one of the most difficult tasks is to separate out their adult issues and focus on what is best for the child,” says Joan Felski, a Milwaukee therapist with more than 20 years of experience working with adolescents. “The more parents can look at this through the eyes of the child, the better it will be for the child.”
Research shows that relatively few children experience long-lasting emotional problems following the divorce of their parents. In the short-term, however, effects vary by age and developmental level.

Felski, who works with Therapies East Associates in downtown Milwaukee, points out that feelings about divorce can change as a child develops. Therefore, it's important that parents are always receptive to their children's feelings and listen to what they have to say.

Along with being attentive, parents also need to communicate openly and honestly. While it might seem easier to shield kids from the matter, “children need a simple but honest explanation about the reasoning behind the divorce,” says Angela Pruess, a marriage and family therapist with Clinical Psychology Associates in Menomonee Falls.

“Many children, if not offered an explanation, will believe it is in some way their fault,” Pruess says. “Continual reassurance that the divorce is not their fault, and that they are still loved by both parents, is vital.”

Nonetheless, emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt and confusion are common. Expected, even. Parents need to ensure that children have adequate opportunities to express these feelings.

“What's important is that parents are open to hearing what their children have to say,” Felski says. Supportive parents encourage children to share their feelings, and this is an important way for children to process and accept a divorce.

Throughout a divorce or separation, parents should also keep a close eye on any behavioral changes. If a child is having problems at home, school or with friends, he or she may be having a difficult time coping with the divorce.

Pruess and colleague Candice Wendlick, a social worker with Clinical Psychology Associates, suggest keeping an eye out for these types of changes:

  • Irritability/Anger (defiance and aggression)
  • Withdrawing at home or socially
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks

Ultimately, parents are the best experts when it comes to the health of their children. If there are concerns over a child's behavior, couples can always reach out to a child therapist to work through the complicated set of emotions that accompany a divorce or separation.


References: Is Divorce Bad for Children?



Call for Immediate Assistance (262) 221-8123
or fill out the form below to book a consult.

Divorce Articles & Frequent Questions

Divorce Laws in Wisconsin
Read a comprehensive overview of Wisconsin divorce laws. Understand your rights according to ...
Read More

Three Simple Steps

Find out how simple the divorce process can be when you work with a law firm that puts you first. Book your consult today!

1. CONTACT

2. SCHEDULE

3. MOVE FORWARD

Book Your Consultation with Sterling Law Offices

Sterling Law Offices, S.C.
Divorce & Family Law Client Reviews

4.4

1,316 Reviews
See all Reviews

"This past fall, I filed for divorce. My husband and I were in a situation where neither of us really needed a lawyer to sort things out, so I decided to file pro se. I was concerned about making a mistake in the paperwork and delaying the final separation, so I called SterlingLawyers.com. Attorney Festerling agreed to work w/me on a "consult only" basis, meaning she would answer my questions and review my documents, charging only for the time spent on those things. There would be no big legal fees incurred for her presence in court or for her time in filling out documents that I was capable of handling myself.She was kind and helpful, and our case went through without a hitch. The overall outlay was very reasonable. I was very happy with the help I received and felt confident going to the court date, knowing all our ducks were in a row. It was as good as an experience like this can be."

- Beth E.
  Full Google Review

Call for Immediate Assistance(262) 221-8123
or fill out the form below to book a consult.