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Communicating with Your Child About Pain and Grief Can Protect Them Against the Negative Effects of an Illinois Divorce

Posted on in Child Custody

Illinois divorce lawyersWhile many studies have indicated that children can recover from the emotional turmoil of a divorce (and may, in some situations, fare better in divorce than if their parents stayed together), they are still vulnerable and innocent parties who can be significantly and negatively impacted by the process. As such, parents are encouraged to make every reasonable effort to mitigate the risk of divorce-related maladjustment in their child. One of the more effective ways to do this is through communication - and not just about the divorce itself, but also the feelings that children are likely to experience as they adjust to the changes of their new life. 

Grief, Loss, and Pain Impacts Children During Divorce

Divorcing parents were once led to believe that children were “resilient” enough to withstand the emotional turmoil of divorce without any long-term, negative effects, but more recent data disproves this outdated theory. Children can experience maladjustment issues from a divorce, even if they do not display any immediate signs or symptoms. That is because, like adults, children can experience the complexity of grief, loss, pain, stress, and even self-blame during the divorce process. If not addressed appropriately, those feelings can simmer below the surface, only to emerge at a later date - and often at a time when the parent least expects it. 

Protecting Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Well-Being During a Divorce

Children, though fairly resilient, need to be protected from the potential ill effects of divorce - particularly those that can negatively impact their mental or emotional well-being. Ensuring that the interactions between you and your spouse (including those that take place over the phone or through email) are amicable is a great way to start, but it may still be necessary to use other mitigating tactics as well. For example, you may want to attend a parenting course that is specifically designed for families impacted by divorce, or you may opt to enroll your child in a peer support group or therapy to ensure they have a private space to talk about their feelings. Just remember, even if you seek outside help for your child, it is still recommended that you address grief and pain with your child, directly, as they may need your support while trying to cope. 

Communicating with Your Child About Pain and Grief

Grief, pain, anxiety, and stress - all of which may be felt by children during the divorce process - are complex emotions that can present differently in each person. One child may withdraw from their school and social activities, while another may start getting into trouble after picking up some new (and undesirable) friends. Age, maturity, and developmental stage can also impact how a child exhibits pain or grief. For example, a toddler may become more whiny and clingy but a teen may avoid their parents (along with friends and other family members). 

So how do you know when to speak to your child about pain and grief? More importantly, how can you ensure that you are able to effectively communicate with your child during the divorce process. What if they refuse to talk or withdraw when you try to discuss the divorce? Consider the following child communication tips:

  • Make observations about your child’s behavior or temperament (i.e. “You seem sad today. Want to talk about it?”) instead simply asking hem how they are feeling;
  • Be honest and straightforward (but never divulge adult details, such as reasons for the divorce);
  • Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings when expressed (even if they happen to express it inappropriately or in anger);
  • Reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault and that both of their parents still love them and will continue to play an active and supportive role in their lives (unless having both parents is not feasible or healthy for the child); and
  • Be willing to share your own feelings (within reason) to help your child understand that divorce hurts everyone, but then assure them that you will be there to help them cope. 

Contact Our Wheaton Divorce Lawyers

At Davi Law Group, LLC, we understand the importance of protecting the best interests of children, which is why our DuPage County divorce attorneys aggressively advocate for them in local family law cases. Seasoned and experienced, we can work with you to improve the overall outcome for your child during an Illinois divorce. Schedule your personalized consultation to get started. Call 630-580-6373 today.


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