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How to introduce the divorce to your kids

Responsible parents who are divorcing realize that it is not all about them and their feelings. When there are children from the union, it's important to consider how the situation will affect them and their development.

Divorce usually has a destabilizing effect on families. Even civil divorces without acrimony alter the family dynamics. That alone can be enough for the kids to be scared and feeling insecure. Parents facing these circumstances could find the following tips useful when navigating the shoals of divorce with their children.

Preparation is key

Even very young children need to be prepared for the changes in their lives. A united front is best, so muster all the civility you can to share the news together with your kids. Let them vent and otherwise express their anger. But also be prepared for them to clam up and shut down.

Stress that it is not their fault

Children internalize divorce and frequently feel that their actions or misbehavior caused or contributed to the split. They need to be reassured (often, more than once) that nothing they did caused their parents to seek a divorce.

Emphasize both parents love them

Realizing that two people who once loved one another no longer do can cause children to extrapolate that maybe their parents will no longer love them as well. Explaining that the love between parents and children is different and unending can relieve their anxieties.

Be aware of mental health changes

Even if they get off to a rocky start accepting the news, most kids sail through a divorce with no lasting scars. But some children will inevitably fail to healthfully assimilate the new family dynamic. They can start acting out at school or at home. They may become aggressive with siblings or friends or develop self-harming behaviors.

It's these kids who are most at risk after their parents divorce. The changes could prove to be the catalyst for an underlying mental health problem to emerge. Prudent parents will loop in their children's pediatricians, teachers and coaches to the situation to ensure that their are plenty of caring and watchful adults looking out for their best interests during and after the divorce.

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