Divorce in the Family: Helping Children Heal and Understand


This brief Parent Tip is provided at no cost by United Services for Effective Parenting-Ohio, Inc., as a tool to assist parents, teachers, grandparents, and all who help to care for and to raise our children. For more information on this and other tools from USEP-OHIO refer to the conclusion of this Parent Tip.



My friend Peggy called recently to ask for help. Her brother Craig and sister-in-law Barbara are divorcing, and Peg is worried about the children, Sarah and Brian. She thinks that both parents are so angry that they are unable to help the children understand what is happening in order to cope with the coming changes in their lives. Most families experience divorce and have a huge responsibility to help keep the children feeling safe and secure about the future and their relationships with both parents.

Sarah is angry and afraid. She is having bad dreams, losing her focus in school, and seems depressed. Brian began to be combative with his friends and even yelled at his baseball coach. When Barbara, their mother, explained that there were some changes at home, it helped the teachers and coaches understand that Sarah and Brian are under duress and need extra patience and reassurance.

Craig, Brian and Sarah’s father, has moved out to a new apartment. He is coping with his own grief, frustration, and fear by acting as if everything is A-OK and that weekend visits to go to the zoo and the movies together will satisfactorily replace daily life together with the family.

What are some of the things we adults can do to help the children understand and heal?

Parents can help kids to adjust by not expecting children to accept and understand. Give them TIME. It is very likely that the divorce is the result of months or years of a process leading up to the decision. Tell yourself and assure the children that it is natural to feel angry, depressed, and frustrated about the divorce and the changes it forces upon their lives.

Admit that divorce changes life, as it has been, and replaces it with something unknown. Kids are afraid of the unfamiliar, unpredictable life ahead.

Everyone must all be given the time and a right to grieve about the separation and divorce.

Parents, grandparents, and teachers can help. Encourage the children to talk about their feelings. Reassure them. They are loved as much as ever by both of their parents and the family.

Be supportive of the parent decision even if you disagree. Say, “It is hard to understand. But your mom and dad both love you, and that will never change.”

Parents should tell the children as soon as possible, so they don’t hear the news from others.

Explain that everyone is hurt and that it’s natural to feel angry and upset, but you will always be open to talking about it. Help them to understand your unique situation. Your family may not be like the family of a friend they have heard angry or scary stories about: “We worked carefully to make this decision and know it will be hard for you. We will work just as hard to help work out a new way of living for all of us. We are still a family, just living in a new way.”

We invite you to share this USEP-OHIO publication with other parents, students, and professionals at home or work. You have permission to copy Tips as written, send on as email, or print for a newsletter or handout. Email us at usepohio@usepohio.com to add email addresses to our list, to give us feedback about how the information works for you, or for other topics, publications, and programs see www.usep-ohio.org and safe-connections-andresources.org. (15 4) Cindy McKay, Executive Director, USEP-OHIO, Inc.

Featured Photo: David Castillo Dominici


One comment

  1. Kathleen OMalley Brown

    All good, no great! “Better than 1000 days in study is one day spent with a great teacher!”  Japanese proverb From: The Chelsea Foundation’s Official Parenting Blog To: chelseafoundation15@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, August 10, 2015 12:27 PM Subject: [New post] Divorce in the Family: Helping Children Heal and Understand #yiv1152587019 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1152587019 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1152587019 a.yiv1152587019primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1152587019 a.yiv1152587019primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1152587019 a.yiv1152587019primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1152587019 a.yiv1152587019primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1152587019 WordPress.com | chelseafoundation posted: “USEP-OHIO PARENT TIPThis brief Parent Tip is provided at no cost by United Services for Effective Parenting-Ohio, Inc., as a tool to assist parents, teachers, grandparents, and all who help to care for and to raise our children. For more information on ” | |

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