What Children of Divorce Need Most

children of divorce

After my divorce I often heard the phrase, “Get on with your life” and most would assume this is what parents need to do most after divorce; however, what children need most is for parents to be stronger and more stable than them, especially during separation or after divorce. Unfortunately, many people journey through this transition without parenting tools, and kids can get emotionally wounded and hurt in ways that can be avoided. Going through a divorce can be an incredible experience of being abruptly displaced for kids and parents. For children of divorce, it can mean they now have two homes, two different neighborhoods, different rules at each house, possibly an entirely new school, new routines, and unfamiliar experiences going back and forth.

Here are some things parents can do to create stability for kids after divorce.

Mom needs to put support systems in place for herself.

She needs other healthy adults to help her with any pain and anger, disappointment and loss as well as helping her build a new vision for the future. Enlisting healthy adults to talk to and come undone with will help hurting parents not emotionally overwhelm their children. It is never the child’s job to be the friend, companion, or counselor for their parent, especially in the teen years. Kids can end up being told way too much and details they never need to know. Part of protecting children from the pain of divorce is for parents to get stable themselves.

Seeking out counseling or small groups that discuss divorce and adjustment to loss are not only a blessing to a parent but the fruit of the blessing is for the children. If a divorced parent is handling their own emotions with other adults, it gives children the safety net to share their emotions with mom/dad. Then mom/dad are able to help the child process his/her own emotions, anger, and confusion through the process.

Focus on routine.

Routine is helpful to everyone after divorce. It often takes up to a year to get into a new rhythm, and it is common to hit some bumps in the road the first year. Communication is key for everyone. Using wall calendars or digital devices (depending on the ages/stages of children) to help kids understand their schedules is helpful. Details about school, homework, and when they will have time with each parent helps kids look forward and prepare for what is coming each week. Allowing kids to stay in their extra-curricular activities helps them adjust. If possible, it’s important to keep kids in the same school system with their same friends. Each parent will handle their day-to-day routines differently but helping kids understand the expectations at each house for their rooms, chores, homework, and bedtime as well as fun routines like taco night, movie night, or game night can be very helpful for kids of all ages.

Create loving traditions.

Research has shown that children who have mealtime at the table on a regular basis are more likely to have stable and successful emerging adult lives. {Tweet This} In a post-divorce schedule it can be hard for a single parent to work, shop, and cook and then have a meal pulled together; however, it is better to focus on the time and conversation at the table than the level of gourmet or perfection of the food. When I was a single mom, we always did the high/low game of sharing our ‘high’ for the day and sharing our ‘low’ as well as talking about anything relevant to her age of life. Although I can’t remember all the stories shared at the table, we do remember the time. I have always felt that even though we were just two of us, we were still a family, and families have meals together on a regular basis. In our digital age of TV, cell phones, and all the many distractions, it is even more important for parents and children to set all of the electronics aside and simply look each other in the eyes and connect.

When kids look back on their childhood we want them to remember the time around the table, the game nights of laughter and silliness, the snuggling up for movie night, bedtime stories and prayers, puddle jumping in the rain and so many other important experiences. Creating stability, routine and loving traditions can be done in a single parent household when we determine in our hearts we will slow down, be intentional and do whatever it takes to love our kids well.

Readers, what are some of your family traditions that your kids most enjoy?