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3 Ways You Can Help Your Children Handle a Divorce

3 ways to help children handle the strain of divorce

Mediation Coach and Divorce Mediator Carmela M. Miraglia reviews ways to help your child through the divorce process. 

Massachusetts mediator

Carmela M. Miraglia

Divorce is not only stressful on the parties that are separating, it can also have far reaching effects on the children in the family. Most divorcing parents will do everything within their control to try to prevent the negative aspects of the divorce from impacting the children – at times a nearly impossible undertaking.  Minimizing the damage, though, is something that every parent can do, and is an essential part of an effective co-parenting relationship.

Here are 3 suggestions that may help parents to help their children handle a divorce.

Maintain as Much Stability as Possible

Children need stability and routine in their lives to feel safe and secure. Throughout the divorce process, maintaining the stability that your children enjoyed during the marriage is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Keeping children in the same school, with the same friends, perhaps even in the same house and bedroom can help to stabilize and insulate them from the uncertainty and chaos of a divorce. When possible, continue following the holiday traditions the children recall from the intact family.

When parents separate and no longer live together, it is impossible for them to follow the exact same routine. It becomes important for each parent to structure their own new routine, to help establish a sense of stability, consistency and dependability for the children. Mediating child related issues, rather than litigating, is a good way to maintain stability.

Talk to Your Children About the Divorce

It is common in many children to feel a sense of abandonment when their parents get a divorce. For some children, the parent that moves out is leaving them behind and moving on without them.

Talking to your children about the divorce – what it means, why it is happening, when they will be able to spend time with the other parent – can ease their misgivings, emphasize that they are not being abandoned. It is important to let children know the divorce is not their fault. It is also important to emphasize that the divorce is permanent: Many children live with the hope that their parents will get back together in the future; explaining that mom and dad will always be mom and dad even though they are permanently living apart can help them move on.

Of course, the amount of information that you provide will depend on the age and maturity level of your children and should never be an indirect attack on the other parent.

Compartmentalize Conflict

Divorce and child custody cases can be a time of disagreement and conflict for the separating parties. When divorcing parents allow that conflict to spill over to the children, real and lasting damage can be done. It’s so easy for a divorcing parent to take out his/her frustration against the other parent by venting to the children or by telling the children things that are designed to make the other parent feel guilty or ashamed or to turn the children against them. In many cases, divorcing parents vent to the children without even thinking about it, or act in the heat of anger.

The impact of casual or even trivial comments about the child’s other parent can be significant. Children who understand the complexity of what is going on can be made to feel like a pawn, while younger children, who trust what they hear from their parent, can be made to feel betrayed or even abandoned by their other parent. Parents who are able to compartmentalize the conflict of the divorce – venting only when the children are out of earshot, determined to insulate their children from that conflict – can drastically reduce the trauma that their children feel from even the most amicable divorce.


Carmela is a divorce mediator and mediation coach for South Shore Divorce Mediation, with offices in Hingham, Massachusetts and East Sandwich, Massachusetts. She is also a Senior Associate Attorney for Lynch & Owens, P.C., where she specializes in divorce and family law issues. Carmela is a statutory mediator under M.G.L. Ch. 233, s. 23C and a proud member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. To read more from Carmela Miraglia, check out her content on the Lynch & Owens Blog.

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