Blending Your StepFamily: Supporting Your Child During Your Divorce or Separation

Blending Your StepFamily: Supporting Your Child During Your Divorce or Separation March 26, 2014

For children, divorce can be very stressful, sad, and confusing.  At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. As a parent, you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children. Helping your kids cope with divorce means providing stability in your home and attending to your children’s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude.

As a parent, it’s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your children the right support through your divorce or separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.

There are many ways you can help your kids adjust to separation or divorce. Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. By providing routines kids can rely on, you remind children they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And if you can maintain a working relationship with your ex, you can help kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict. Such a transitional time can’t be without some measure of hardship, but you can powerfully reduce your children’s pain by making their well being your top priority.

Here’s a list of your child’s wants from mom and dad:

  •     I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please keep in touch with me regularly through phone calls, email, whatever and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.  This one breaks my heart as a grandma.  I have witnessed my precious grandson feeling that his mama (my ex-daughter in law) doesn’t love him.  She doesn’t stay in regular contact, and has moved away from him.  He told me he doesn’t think she loves him.  I tried as best I could to affirm that she does but at this time in her life cannot show him the way she should.
  •     Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.  Parents, usually if you are fighting over your child, it’s because you love them.  But the child is not feeling that love.  They feel responsible so take your disagreement behind closed doors so your child cannot hear it.
  •     I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I get to spend with my other parent. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.  I want the freedom to love you both.  Even if you think my other parent is not worthy of love, I will figure that out on my own, it it’s indeed true, when the time is right for me.
  •     Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth.  Please keep me out of the middle, I didn’t ask for the divorce and I don’t want to become the messenger.
  •     When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.  I have really big ears so please don’t tell others about my parent when I am in the room.  Even though I act like I’m not listening, I am.
  •     Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mom and my dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.

I have too often witnessed one parent pit the child against the other parent.  That is unfair to the child and selfish on the part of the parent.  The parent is really saying that their needs, their hurts, their disappointments are more important than their child’s.  Usually this tactic of pitting the child against their parent backfires when their child grows up.

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