Without question, divorce is difficult for all members of a family, but for children it can be especially difficult. Frequently they are the last to hear the news and are generally less prepared for it than parents who have seen problems evolve over a period of time. Children wonder why it happened and whether they are somehow responsible. They also worry about issues such as finances and whether their parents are OK emotionally. But through careful, continuing communication, parents can ease the pain for children.

Offer answers about why the divorce is happening but avoid specifics. Take extra care to avoid saying negative things about each other to the children.
Reassure children they are not responsible for the divorce, that both parents still love them and will still be involved in the their lives.
Ask your child what he or she is worried about. Then listen and address those issues.
Assure children that important events in their lives will still occur, that holidays and birthdays will still be celebrated, and in some cases twice so.
Assure children that you will take care of yourself and get the support you need, that they do not need to be your companions or care-keepers.
Communicate with the other parent in a positive way. If this proves difficult, use a notebook to send back and forth with the child.
Don’t ask too many questions of your children when they return from visiting the other parent. While it’s fine to ask about the weekend or homework, avoid asking for personal information about the other parent, such as dating or purchasing habits.
Do not introduce a new love interest to your children less than six months to a year.
Children generally will do as well as their parents. If your conflict level is low, the divorce will be easier for the children. If it’s high, with parents fighting in front of the children, it will be much more difficult. The more the parents can be diplomatic, flexible and communicative, the more easily the kids will be able to adjust and the better role models they’ll have for resolving their own conflicts later in life.

As published in the July 27, 2003 Edition of the La Crosse Tribune.