7 Ways to Help Your Child’s Mental Health During a Divorce

Parents who choose to divorce have concluded that this is best for the family.  The marital relationship may be damaging not only to the parents but also to the children.  However, even in the best circumstances, divorce may be challenging for the children.

While it is important to consider everyone’s mental health during a divorce, it is imperative to keep your child’s mental health a top priority. Learn more about how you can help your child’s mental health during a divorce with these 7 tips.

Choose the Collaborative Law Process

There are many options when it comes to separating from a spouse. Some families choose mediation, while others jump directly to litigation in court. Both of these paths are valid options but choosing to use the collaborative law process may be a better fit, especially when involving children. 

The collaborative process involves a group of professionals working together. For example, you and your spouse join together with collaboratively trained lawyers, coaches (collaboratively trained therapists), and collaboratively trained financial advisors. Everyone works together as a team for the overall benefit of the family.  You and your spouse agree to work to reach a settlement that includes the PSA (Property Settlement Agreement) and a Parenting Plan without entering into litigation.  The collaborative process helps you create a durable agreement without going to court that is tailored to your family’s needs.

Meet Early Before Telling Children

One of the best ways to break the news to a child about divorce is to work together with divorce coaches beforehand. Meeting early to discuss the best option sets the tone for the upcoming divorce process. 

Many children may already know that something is happening, while others will be shocked to hear the news. Either way, it is essential to be aware of your child’s developmental needs regarding their likely concerns about the divorce.

Leave Out the Details

While it’s always best to be honest with your child, they don’t need to know the details about what happened. So, choose your words carefully, and remember that your child needs to have a healthy and ongoing relationship with your spouse, no matter what has happened between you two in the past.  Swallow hard and present this as a mutual decision without details about what led to the conclusion.

Remind children that both parents love them and that you are working together in this mutual decision. It is crucial to be clear that while you have decided to create two homes, you will always be a family and will always love them as you have. As the divorce progresses, be sure to watch what you say while in earshot of your children.

Consider Using a Script

Finding the right words to tell your child that you are divorcing can be challenging. Help your child’s mental health during a divorce by using some agreed-on scripts crafted with the help of your divorce coach. These scripts can be a lifesaver when introducing your child to divorce and can often help you stay neutral to preserve the child’s relationship with each parent. Ask your divorce coach for more information about scripts and helpful ways parents communicate with kids during the divorce process.

Be Available for Questions

Make sure that you and your spouse are always available to your child when they have questions. Children often have their fears and questions about what life will be like after the divorce. So, create a space where both you and your spouse can answer questions without judgment throughout the entire process, but particularly during the first few days after telling them.

Note that sometimes children may ask questions while traveling in the car, getting tucked in for bed, or even during play, as this is a place where children may indirectly express their concerns.  Make sure you understand the scope of their question before answering with more information than they want or need.

Use a Child Specialist

You may want to take advantage of the collaborative divorce process by using a collaboratively trained child specialist. This person can serve as the voice of the children when you are working with the coach to create a Parenting Plan and offer the child a safe place to explore their feelings.

The divorce process can take many twists and turns, and it is useful to include those professionals who have walked through this process before with other families.  These specialists could help you understand or even become aware of something you would have missed otherwise. 

Remember Actions are Louder than Words

While you may tell your child that you have their best interest at heart, it is essential to note that actions are often louder than words. When you tell your child that they will still have two parents and a home, make sure that they see evidence of this daily. Divorce coaches will help you understand what kinds of actions send this message of cooperation and united co-parenting to children.

Allow Donita King Law Offices to Help

When walking through a divorce with children involved, it is vital to protect your child’s mental health. Preparing what you will say and how you will handle the divorce along with your spouse is the first step to showing your child that you are all in this together. 

Choosing the collaborative divorce process is a great way to include the mental health aspect of divorce. Contact Donita King Law Offices today to find a collaborative team of professionals that will work together to find a solution that fits your family best. Remember these 7 ways to help your child’s mental health during a divorce so that everyone can move forward.

This article was written with assistance from Susan J. Buniva, a licensed therapist and divorce coach in Richmond, Virginia. She has helped many couples over her 40-year career in both therapy and the collaborative law process. Susan enjoys working with a wide range of clients and believes that collaboration is an excellent tool for those couples willing to work together. Find out more about Susan and her approach to collaborative divorce. 

Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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