Going through divorce is hard for everyone in the family. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve also worked with countless families as a therapist helping them through the process. One of the biggest worries is how it will impact the children. I’ve gathered helpful resources and tips for you. I hope you find this encouraging and it helps you establish further support for yourself and your family during this challenging time.
Young children- ages 8 and younger
Many people underestimate how much young kids know and understand. Parents often try to shelter kids from what’s happening, but little ears will hear things even when you’re careful. If they overhear parts of conversations, their imaginations will fill in the rest of the details, and oftentimes they come up with worse scenarios than what is really happening.
It is important to have an open conversation with your child about what is going on. As professionals, we do not recommend that you share everything with young kids, but give them the basics and provide an opportunity to ask questions. Books can be a great way to provide the information in an age-appropriate manner. We have compiled a list of books for all ages below. After reading together, see if your child would like to talk about it or if they need time to process the information. Sometimes it’s easier for kids to draw about it, or to use dolls/puppets to play out what they’re thinking and feeling.
Children often experience challenges when transitioning between two homes and/or missing the other parent. These are two books that can be helpful for comforting young children through those changes:
<The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn>
If you notice changes in your child’s mood or behavior that persist over time, I would recommend that you can contact a therapist. For children 8 years old and younger, look for a play therapist, as it is an evidenced based practice for working with children. At Olympia Therapy PLLC, we specialize in providing play therapy to children as young as two. If you are wanting to find a play therapist in your area, check out the Association for Play Therapy (APT) for more information https://www.a4pt.org
Older children/teens- ages 8 and up
For older children, tweens, and teens, it’s best to find a calm time to talk together about what’s happening. Prepare ahead of time with a friend or family member to practice how to talk honestly with your child, while also being careful to not talk badly about the other parent. Children of all ages need to know that they can love and be loyal to both parents and that they will not be put in the middle.
Therapy can be helpful for kids to feel like they have a place to talk openly without worrying about hurting their parents’ feelings or taking sides. Look for a therapist who specializes in children and adolescents. Your child’s pediatrician or school counselor can be a good resource for finding great therapists in your area.
Take care of yourself! Even the most amicable divorces are stressful and emotional. Get together with friends and family who understand and do this apart from your children so that you can talk openly without worries of being overheard. And if you need further support, seek out therapy. A great resource for finding a local therapist is Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us, where you can search by location, insurance, and/or reason for seeking services. You will then see pictures and summaries of local therapists to choose from.
In conclusion, I want to share one more resource that I just recently learned about, Collaborative Divorce. This is an alternative to traditional divorce proceedings. You will work with collaborative professionals (attorneys, therapists, financial professionals, etc) whose goal is look out for the best interest of all family members and to provide a more peaceful process. You can look up the IACP International Academy of Collaborative Professionals site for further information on collaborative divorce and to assist you in finding collaborative professionals if this is a good fit for you.
Find the above books here: