Divorced Parents

Together, we can help manage the emotional impact on your child

Although separation and divorce are common, they are still very tough for everyone involved,
especially children. No matter how amicable a divorce, it is still a major disruption in children’s
lives. Whether you’re currently going through a divorce or have been divorced for some time,
the most important thing as a parent is for your child to feel loved throughout the entire
experience.

In this difficult time, we’re here for you, your child and your family

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we understand how hard divorce can be on parents, children
and everyone else involved. Please come in and talk with us about any aspect of the impact your
divorce may be having on your child’s emotional and physical well-being. If you have concerns or
questions, would like advice, or simply need us to listen, please know that we are here for you and
your child. Together, we will try to help make this difficult time easier and less stressful for everyone.

How children experience divorce now will greatly impact their future

For most children, the quality of their parents’ relationship and the experience of their divorce
will color their view of marriage, relationships and family for years to come. When they become
young adults, some children of divorce will experience problems with relationships, which in
many instances can be traced back to their family experiences of childhood.

What you can do to help your child through a divorce

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we have found through our years of experience with kids that there
definite actions that divorcing and divorced parents can take to minimize the trauma their children
experience, to support them as they adapt to their new circumstances, and to help them achieve happy
and satisfying relationships throughout their lives.

If you are divorcing/divorced, despite the difficulties you and your ex-spouse are going through,
remember that you still share the parenting of your child. If the two of you, alone or with
professional help, can put aside your marital conflicts and raise your child as amicably as
possible, it will much better for all involved.

The most important predictor of a child’s long-term adjustment to divorce is the way parents
adapt to the end of their marriage. Likewise, how much a divorce will affect the rest of your
child’s life depends largely on how you and your spouse treat each other before, during and after
the divorce. We urge parents to try to set aside their differences and put their child first.

Suggestions to make divorce less painful for your child:

  • Never force your child to take sides. Every child will have loyalties to both parents.
  • Do not involve your child in arguments between the two of you.
  • Do not fight or criticize each other in front of your child or when your child could overhear you. If this does happen, explain to your child that when people get angry, they often say things that are hurtful that maybe they shouldn’t have said.
  • Discuss your concerns and feelings with your ex-spouse when and where your child can’t hear.
  • Avoid fighting in front of your child.

Talk with your child from the beginning and often

The earlier you tell your child about the divorce and the more often you talk about it, the more comfortable and less afraid he/she will feel. Also, allow your child to share his/her fears, worries and feelings with you (including anger at you). This will help your child feel safe, loved and valued.

When talking with your child about the divorce, we suggest these guidelines:

  • Be completely honest and open about what is going to happen, in simple terms.
  • Make sure your child knows that the divorce is not his/her fault. Also explain to your child that he/she can’t fix the problem or make the two of you stay together. Reassure your child that you love him/her very much.
  • Try not to blame your ex-spouse. Explain that parents sometimes don’t want to be married to each other anymore and need to live separately.
  • Listen to your child’s questions. You do not need to have all the answers. Sometimes just patiently listening to your child is more helpful than talking. Again, reassure your child that he/she is safe and loved.
  • Keep your child’s daily routine. Try to keep your child’s school, sports, friendships and environment as unchanged as possible. Parents living separately should agree on a set of consistent rules for both households. It is also important to stick to a weekly or monthly schedule of visits with both parents.
  • Understand when your child turns to friends, grandparents, teachers or coaches for comfort and attention. These relationships can offer support and can be very helpful to children as they adjust to a divorce.
  • Let your child’s teachers and school social workers know about the divorce so they can watch for any problems in school. It’s also important for your child’s school to know whom to contact in an emergency or for permission for special activities.

Divorce is not easy for parents either

Please seek help and advice from a counselor or therapist if you are going through a divorce, even an “amicable” one. It’s very important for parents to stay as emotionally healthy as possible so they can be available to their children during this difficult time. Social agencies, mental health centers, women’s centers, legal centers and support groups for divorced or single parents are helpful. There are also many informative books and articles about divorce for both parents and children.