The good news first: Many children get through their parents’ divorce just fine. In fact, some are better off for it, as they do not have to watch their parents silently or vocally resent each other every day.
Now for the bad news: Even those children who do brilliantly later often have struggles during the divorce process itself. Here is an overview of a couple of things that may be weighing on your child’s mind.
Children often worry about the impact of the divorce on life as they know it, and one of the most common concerns here is, “Where will I live?” So, when you (and your soon-to-be-ex) talk with your child, be as clear as possible on this front. For example, you might say, “Your [mom/dad] and I both want to have you, so you could do one week with us then one week with the other.”
Or, you might explain it like this: “Your [mom/dad] found an apartment that is kind of far away, out of the school district. So we’re thinking you’ll have lots of weekends there, and a lot of time in the summer there too.”
Whether it is the child’s fault
Many children assume that the divorce may be their fault. Although this is more common in preschoolers, children could feel guilty and personally responsible for a failed marriage even into their teen years. You may be able to put these fears to rest through reassurance, and your child may also benefit from professional therapy.
While you and your spouse are going through the process, it helps your child greatly if you can be civil, even courteous, to each other. To be sure, this is often difficult, especially if there are thorny issues related to asset division and estate planning to work out. However, it will help your child if you refrain from dealing with these in front of him or her.
Meanwhile, work together to be co-parents to your child. Presenting a united front may help demonstrate that you two are on the same side when it comes to parenting, and you want what is best for your child.