prepare a child for divorce

How to prepare a child for divorce

Divorce or a separation is always hard on the people involved. If not handled well, the experience can scar a child for life. Hence, it’s important to prepare a child for divorce. Dr Sushma Mehrotra, Ph.D consulting clinical psychologist shares a list of dos and don’ts that apply.

How to prepare a child for divorce

No matter how hard it’s to communicate the decision to separate or divorce a partner, make sure not to lie about it.

  • Break the news in a child-friendly way

If the child is not able to verbalise thoughts and emotions, use toys and storytelling as a way to explain what’s happening. If the child is big enough to understand things, be honest with him or her. Tell them that you and your partner have decided not to stay together. Also, while both of you may not be living together, you’ll always be there for your child.

  • Avoid fighting or arguing in front of the child

It’s important to make the child feel emotionally secure. Hence, both parents have to be careful that they do not trade insults, call each other nasty names or are abusive in front of the child. Whatever your differences are, they need to be settled in private. The child will seek emotional security, which your  thoughtful words and considerate actions can provide.

  • Don’t use a child like a pawn in a custody battle

Often things get ugly as one or both partners try to win over the child as they want to win custody. It’s important not to demonise a partner, call them names in front of the child or to force the child to choose a parent by lying to them.

  • Don’t turn your child against your partner

Trying to brainwash the child or sowing seeds of hatred against one parent can backfire. A child is likely to resent you for doing this as he or she grows up.

  • Avoid cutting off a parent’s access to their child

Even if you have won the custody battle or are in the process of fighting for one. Make sure both parents spend equal time with the child. Don’t try to forcibly separate a child from a parent. It’s important to remember that you have chosen to go your separate ways. Your child has not chosen to separate from his or her parents.

A child’s safety is paramount. Don’t risk it.

If one of the parents  is abusive and could pose a threat to the child’s safety. Make sure to have an adult around when the child visits them. If there’s reason to believe that the child could be harmed physically by one partner, you may have to explain that to the child stating that the partner is ailing and needs help, and you will let the child visit the parent when he or she is not likely to harm the child.

No matter what you do, ensure you do not retraumatise your child

When you are deciding on the future ensure that your decisions do not retraumatise your kid. Decisions to start a life with a new partner, remarry, change your child’s surname or move to another city should all be carefully thought of and communicated. If necessary, approach a child counsellor for advice on how to handle the situation better, keeping your child’s interests at the forefront.