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Helping your child cope: Handling a divorce

You and your spouse decided to get a divorce because the nightly ritual of arguing with one another wasn't something you wanted to put your child through. Your child started to mention that you don't get along, and you know it's beginning to influence his or her behaviors.

Now that you've decided to take a step toward divorce, you want to be certain that your child will benefit as much as possible from the split. How can you make sure your child stays happy and healthy, though, when both parents aren't in the same home?

Remember, your child isn't an adult

To start with, remember not to address this situation as if your child is an adult. He or she may be hurt or confused about why his or her mom or dad doesn't want to live in the same house anymore. He or she may fear being left behind or losing everything he or she knows.

Younger children, in particular, could struggle to express their feelings and may lash out, cry more often than usual or do other things that are unusual for them. Be prepared to address these behavior changes by showing your child that you're not leaving him or her behind and that you still love and care about him or her.

Avoid disrupting your child's routine

It can be very tough on a child to have his or her entire routine replaced suddenly. It can make it hard for the child to know what to do and when to do it. He or she may not know when it's okay to eat, play or sleep. Do your best to avoid changing your child's routine, so he or she can focus on being a kid.

Discuss divorce in an age appropriate way

Another thing you need to do is to discuss the divorce with your child in an age-appropriate manner. For example, if your child's a teen, he or she may already understand what is happening and just want to know where he or she will live and what the divorce means for his or her future.

On the other hand, children who are around 10 years old may need additional support and comfort. They may think that their worlds are crashing down and that they're somehow responsible for their parents' divorce. These children understand logic but may have flaws in their own, so keep that in mind while approaching the topic gingerly.

For very young children, you may want to simplify the explanation of the divorce and make it as positive as possible. You may wish to explain gently that mom and dad no longer want to live in the same home because they want to have their own spaces.

Be clear that you both want to continue seeing and supporting your child, if that's the truth.

Your child needs support and love during the divorce. Be prepared for changes in his or her behavior, but know that this, too, can pass with time. 

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