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Caring mothers do everything possible to protect their children from being hurt by divorce. But it is inevitable that your children will experience the divorce very differently than the way that you experience it. Remember, it is not your job to make your children feel cheerful about the divorce, or to convince them that the divorce was a wise decision. Just listening to your child's complaints means a great deal.

In this exclusive firstwivesworld series, you will learn to see the divorce from your child's perspective. In Part Two, I will discuss some of the outward signs that indicate a youngster may be reacting to the pain of divorce.  For now, just be aware that children must work through issues on their own timetables.

Your mission is to find a balance between tolerating your child's point of view without judgment, and empathetically offering your own. A good way to help your children with the process of mourning is by responding to their expressions of loss with understanding.

Here are 3 typical ways that divorce can be painful for children:

1. The loss of the everyday. Children derive their sense of security — and often, their personal identity — from everyday routine. When he leaves "the old house," with the old school, the old neighborhood, pets and other attachments, a child may feel stripped of everything that has been meaningful in life. Your enthusiasm for a fresh start after the divorce can be in sharp contrast to your child's feeling of powerlessness.

2. The loss of parents as they used to be. Here, too, the relief that you may feel at leaving a marriage is not your child's relief.  The relationship that your child has had with her father — although, perhaps, from your perspective not ideal — is all she has known. For you, the idea of remarriage may promise the possibility of greater fulfillment in the future. For your child, remarriage poses the problem of total strangers-step-parents, and new siblings — competing with established relationships. While you may feel eager to wipe the slate clean and begin again, your child may not likely share this perspective.

3. The loss of material things. Statistics tell us that divorce is often accompanied by a fall in socioeconomic status for mother and children-so there are often new financial pressures. Sometimes children may have to cope, without complaint, to new restrictions. Of course, as an adult you may see over this momentary hump to greener pastures ahead. But children have less experience with the future. They live "right now" and may have trouble conceptualizing beyond the moment.

These issues may feel very different for a child than for you. Even if the adult viewpoint is more realistic (which, of course, it often may be), showing respect for child's perspective can help soothe the losses the child has experience. Your empathy goes a long way towards easing all of the inevitable hurts that life can inflict.


In the next article in this series I'll discuss Kids Behaving Badly and Other Signs They're Hurting

Click the following for articles and resource videos on Kids, Family and Divorce.

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  • Comment Link Lori Shawgo Monday, 28 July 2014 14:18 posted by Lori Shawgo

    I am stuggling daily with my soon to be 12 year old... we use to be so close and nothing came between us.. I have been divorced and remarried and my x put's so much crap in her head... I don't know her anymore. She treats my new husband like crap and I am afraid he is soon going to leave me over her behavior. He is treated so poorly by her and I am not sure how to handle the situation. I am not sure who my little girl is anymore. I miss her... she is always angry and can never say much nice to me... it kills her to be nice... it is slowly killing me inside.... how do I handle this??

  • Comment Link Beverly Willett Sunday, 05 May 2013 11:46 posted by Beverly Willett

    Great topic that I will share on the FB site I moderate, the Coalition for Divorce Reform. We are advocating for modest divorce reform to address the needs of minor children in divorce called the Parental Divorce Reduction Act.

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 13 March 2013 10:40 posted by Guest

    While it's inevitable that divorce will be unsettling and leave raw emotions (for children and parents) it's not inevitable that the damage will be lasting. If the parents can put their bitterness and hurt aside and put the needs of the children first, establishing firm and fair routines and with all the love, attention the children need then life can soon get back on track for all.

    Like a number of divorced friends, my kids have 50/50 contact with both parents and 7 years down the line from our separation they're happy, bright and bubbly, doing extremely well at school and have the best of both worlds. This isn't unusual.

    A happy home is a key ingredient to raising a happy child, and a happy one parent home is much more likely to fit the bill than one where the parents spend every minute arguing and fighting.
    Chrissie x

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 22 February 2013 02:43 posted by Guest

    I just wish their father had: I just wish their father had been a more decent human being and had not dissipated community property. It's one thing to leave a supportive spouse quite another to break promises and steal money from your own flesh and blood.