A child whose parents are divorcing may feel as if he needs his own lawyer-someone to articulate his feelings of confusion and sadness, someone to make his parents aware of what he needs to grow into a healthy, well-adjusted adult. While minor’s counsel may be appropriate in certain situations, their job is to represent the children’s best interests to the court, not the best interests of the parents. Therefore, parents must take it upon themselves to understand their children’s fears and wishes and then be prepared to address them in a compassionate and child-focused manner.
Fortunately, children are often not the enigmas that they might otherwise appear. Most children share a common set of desires that their parents can address. First and foremost, children seek love and understanding from their parents. Parents must show their children love and recognize that they are going through a very difficult situation. This kind of support will go a long way toward helping children feel better. In addition, parents must create routines and order in their children’s new, post-divorce life.
This is because children crave stability. A divorce will not feel like the “end of the world” if children have a clear sense that things will continue onward in a steady, predictable rhythm. Children need to know that what is happening with mom and dad is not their fault. They need to know that their lives will remain as stable as possible. They need to be told that these issues are adult issues between their parents and that their parents on working on resolving those issues and the kids don’t need to be involved in that process. They need to know that this is a part of life and that their parents have it under control. In this context you are NOT your child’s friend; you are their parent.
With predictability comes honesty as well. Divorced parents should understand that their child does not need to be kept aware of the situation, other than to be told that everything is going along as it should. Lies and overly optimistic assessments do nothing to relieve children’s fears. Children are far more perceptive than parents often give them credit. This awareness will likely make children angry and resentful of their parents if they realize that lies are being told to them. Rather than trying to “spin” what is happening it is far better to simply tell the children that everything is progressing as expected and the details are between mom and dad; it really is none of their business.
Children can also come to resent parents who fight within earshot. Most children can accept their parents’ divorce if they act civilly toward each other.