When a couple experiences conflict in their marriage, their children may be the first ones to feel the stress. If the situation escalates to a separation or divorce, the tension intensifies, and a child can be overwhelmed emotionally.
Children may be exasperated by the losses they have endured. They often feel that their whole world has turned upside down—and it has! Everything they have known since birth has changed. Their sense of security may be shaken. It can be traumatic to witness the erosion of your parents’ marriage. Kids may feel shocked, uncertain, and even angry. Others may feel a sense of shame or guilt, blaming themselves for the problems in the family.Although you can’t protect them from the pain of the divorce, you can dramatically reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority. Click To Tweet
Although you can’t protect them from the pain of the divorce, you can dramatically reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority. Here are a few ways to accomplish this.
Provide Love and Support
You can provide patience, reassurance, and a listening ear as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances. Pursue relationships with your children. Say “I love you” frequently. Letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from cooking their meals to picking them up from school to helping them with homework. Those reminders let them know what to expect from you.
Preserve Structure and Routine
Ideally, both parents will work together to provide similar routines at both houses, so children have a sense of stability and structure. Also, if both parents can agree on and enforce similar rules and expectations, children find safety in those routines. By maintaining similar patterns and schedules your children can rely on, you remind them that they can look to you for constancy.
Protect Them from Conflict
By preserving a working relationship between parents, you can help your children avoid the stress and anguish that comes with watching parents in conflict. Children need both parents involved in their life. The more united both parents can be in making sure children have both parents in their lives, the more security they will have in those relationships. Refrain from putting your children in the middle of any disagreements or conflict.
Remember that your children are experiencing a lot of losses during this season of adjustment. They are dealing with insecurity and sadness. They are confused and may not understand the full impact of these changes on their future. Allow them to take it a day at a time and make yourself available for open and honest communication.
Point Your Children to God
Ultimately, always let your words and actions lead them closer to God. He can provide strength and assurance you cannot provide. Set an example of reliance on God for direction and hope. Pray with them and for them and share Scriptures that give you strength and insight. With this guidance, they will learn to look to God for their own future. At the end of the day that is the best skill we can help them develop to navigate difficulties in their own lives.
With your support, your children can not only successfully navigate this unsettling time, but even emerge feeling loved, secure, and confident.
But the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. – Psalm 94:22, New Living Translation
Beverly McManus is a nationally certified counselor with a master’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in education. She operates a private counseling practice in Franklin, Tennessee, and teaches seminars, marriage conferences, and women’s retreats. She is a member of the Center for Apostolic Counseling, an endorsed ministry of the United Pentecostal Church International.
(A version of this content originally appeared in the Family Ministry newsletter.)
Resources and Links
Born to Lose by Beverly McManus – The Purpose of this booklet is to help you understand the grief process following the loss of any person or thing of importance. It is our hope that this guide in some small way will help you along the path in your grief journey.