A Parent's Guide to Addressing and Dealing with Divorce

Divorce is difficult for all involved, but can be especially challenging for children who may not understand why their parents are getting a divorce. During the divorce and afterwards, parents should provide a supportive environment for children so that they feel comforted. Children should be allowed to express their thoughts and feelings, even if those thoughts are painful to hear. Some parents do their best to reduce the impact of the divorce on the child and aim to make changes to the child's life go as smoothly as possible. Whether or not the parents decide to try co-parenting or have the role fall to one parent is up to the divorcing couple.

Talking to Your Children about Divorce
The way in which parents decide to tell their children about the divorce depends in large part on the child's age. Very young children may not understand what is going on. They may need physical comfort and reminders that they are secure and that their parents still love them. Older children and teenagers may feel angrier about the divorce. When discussing divorce with their children, parents should avoid blaming each other or trying to get their children to side with them.

Common Reactions to Divorce & How to Handle Them
Children will react differently to the news of a divorce depending on their age. While an infant or toddler may not know what is happening, they may cry more if one parent is no longer around as much. Young school-age children may blame themselves for the divorce while older children and teenagers may feel anger at their parents or may suffer from anxiety. Some children start acting out as a result of a divorce.

Parents can help their children through a divorce by providing support and by aiming to put the child first. They should not argue in front of the child. Young children need to have their parents say that they are not to blame. They most likely also need physical comfort. It's generally a good idea to try to maintain a routine and schedule for very young children and toddlers. Some families may also find that counseling and therapy helps them through a difficult divorce.

Minimizing the Impact of Divorce on Your Child
While divorce is a time of great change for a family, parents can take steps to minimize the impact of the divorce on their child. Parents should strive to keep their child's life as similar to life before the divorce as possible. Children should not be given the decision of which parent to live with, as that can create undue stress for them. If possible, parents should avoid arguing or fighting in front of their children, especially about matters concerning the child.

How to Handle Adjustments to the Child's Living Situation
In some cases, a child and parent will have to move after a divorce. The child may need to change schools or adjust to living in a smaller apartment or house. If the divorce results in a reduction in income, the child needs to adjust to not having as many luxuries as before. In other cases, the child needs to adjust to seeing one parent in a new home. Parents can help a child who has moved or changed schools by arranging for them to visit their old friends regularly. Parents can help children adjust to a lower income level by showing them fun things to do that do not cost as much money.

Single Parenting & Parenting with Your Ex
After a divorce, many parents decide to continue parenting their children together. In some cases, the role of parent falls squarely on the shoulders of one parent, though. Whether a divorced couple decides to co-parent or not depends on the circumstances of the divorce. Co-parenting requires a level of communication and agreement between the two, as one parent cannot say one thing and the other something else without problems arising. Keeping a healthy relationship with the other parent sets a good example for the child, though. Co-parents should aim to be as civil with each other as possible.

  • Parenting Resources - A list of resources for parents going through a divorce from the Alaska court system.