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Tips to help children cope with divorce

Around 1 in 6 children under 16 in the UK will be affected by divorce or separation.

Divorcing couples will try to manage the strong feelings and emotions children will feel, but it can still be a devastating experience.

Amid making the practical arrangements for who lives where, custody and visits, many parents can underestimate what their children are going through during their separation.

Children coping with divorce: 9 tips

Use these nine tips to help minimise the negative effects of divorce on your children:

  • Don't confide in your children about adult concerns like your disagreements with your spouse or your money worries. Find a friend or counsellor to confide in instead
  • Don't criticise your ex. If you have a dispute with your ex-spouse, don't expose your children to your conflicts and frustration
  • Don't quiz your child about the other parent or what goes on at the other parent's house. It's fine to ask general questions about your child's time there, but don't snoop
  • Don't introduce major changes in your child's life if you can help it. Try to keep to your usual family routines and community ties
  • Do continue to parent as you always have. You may feel guilty that your children have to cope with divorce, but it won't help to give them special presents or let them stay up late. They'll feel more secure if you're firm and consistent
  • Do encourage children to call the other parent when they have news or just to talk. Keep the other parent informed about school events and other activities
  • Do learn more about how to help your child cope with divorce. Many organisations can help families understand the effect of divorce on children, such as the British Association for Counselling and the Family Welfare Association.
  • Do get help for a child having trouble coping with divorce. A young child may show regressive behaviour like excessive clinginess or bedwetting, while an older child may become angry, aggressive, withdrawn, depressed, or have problems in school. A counsellor can provide a safe place for your child to express his or her feelings. There will also be several organisations and services in your local area so it is worth talking to your GP or Health Visitor.
  • Do seek help if you and your ex can't interact without hostility. A family counsellor or professional mediator can help you develop a more friendly communication style - one with fewer negative effects on your children.
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