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How to Manage Your Child’s Mental Health During a Divorce


Getting divorced as a parent means dealing with the struggles and emotional toll of a breakup while also trying to protect your child. The potential psychological impact of a divorce on children – especially young children – is well-known, but that doesn’t mean there is no hope for your child’s mental health. There are things you can do to protect your child’s well-being and foster a healthy mental state despite your divorce.

Put Your Child First

Divorce is hard on everyone, but it is important to remember that your child is going through the breakup of his or her family. Your actions can make things better or worse for your child during this time. You have the power to protect your child from stress, anxiety and depression with the things that you say and do. If you can, try to follow these suggestions:

  • Fight privately. Try to get along with your ex when you have to, especially around the kids. Leave any arguments, confrontations or divorce negotiations to times when you aren’t around your child. Make use of a mediator or divorce lawyer to help you communicate with your ex in a civil way.
  • Don’t badmouth your spouse. A lot of mental health struggles for children during divorce stem from pressure from one parent to choose sides or ostracize the other parent. A child’s guilt or fear of disappointing one parent in the divorce can lead to anxiety. Prevent this by keeping your opinions about your ex to yourself. Don’t badmouth your ex in front of your child or make your child feel like he or she has to take a side. 
  • Respect the relationship between your child and the other parent. Don’t guilt trip your child for wanting to spend time with your ex. Don’t compare your relationship with your child to your ex’s relationship. It is generally in a child’s best interest to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents post-divorce. Don’t get in the way of this because of your own bad relationship with your co-parent.

No matter how strongly you feel about your ex-spouse, he or she is still your child’s parent. Keep this in mind and do everything you can to put your child first during your divorce and afterward. Emotions can run high during a divorce case, but keeping your own opinions and struggles from affecting your child should be your number one priority.

Find Stability

Stability is a major factor in maintaining a child’s mental health during a divorce. Parents splitting up is a major life change for a child. Parents can bring some peace and balance to this tumultuous time by keeping the rest of the child’s life as stable and consistent as possible. If you can, keep your child on the same schedule that he or she had before the divorce as much as possible. Maintaining a normal, structured routine can help your child adjust with less anxiety. 

Communicate Openly

Signs that your child is struggling with the divorce can include sudden academic problems, outbursts or behavioral issues, withdrawal from others, less socializing with friends, lower self-esteem, and symptoms of depression or anxiety. If you notice any possible mental health problems, take the time to address them. Communicate openly and honestly with your child about what is going on. Let your child know that anything that he or she is feeling is okay and valid.

Offer the idea of counseling or therapy if your child needs help coping with the divorce. Seeing a professional can help your child find healthy coping mechanisms and look toward the future with optimism instead of dread. Consider family counseling with your ex-spouse and child, as well, so that you can all work together to do what is best for your child’s well-being and mental state. Addressing negative feelings can help alleviate your child’s stress and promote wellness during this difficult time.

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