While divorce is one of the most stressful events that a couple can undergo, its pressures and impact are also acutely felt by the children of such families. Although children are highly alert in picking up signs of stress between parents, couples are sometimes reluctant to bring up the subject because they are uncomfortable with it themselves. However, Dr. John Chirban believes that parents can successfully achieve the distance necessary to inform their children about their divorce while also being supportive and empathetic to their needs. As the Director of Harvard?s Institute of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion, and a member of Dr. Phil?s advisory board, Dr. Chirban has counseled countless families going through the divorce process. He offers the following pointers for parents on how to inform their children about their divorce:
- Parents should make sure to not minimize the impact of divorce on their children and realize that each child will process the change differently
- Parents should assure their children that they will continue to be safe, protected, and loved
- Parents should inform their children of the facts while leaving personal animosities aside, but they should also feel free to share their feelings of anger and sadness as well
- Parents might want to consider seeking a counselor or a third party that can provide the distance necessary that is sometimes hard to achieve as a participant in the divorce process.
In addition, Dr. Chirban recommends reading books with your children on the subject of divorce as a way to ease into the subject. Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown and Laurie Krasny Brown is a top-selling book for parents whose children are 4-8 years old, while What Can I Do?: A Book for Children of Divorce by Danielle Lowry and Bonnie J. Matthews, is a great read that explains the topic more in depth for kids aged 9-12. The tips provided by Dr. Chirban are merely some examples of practical ways on how to build a safe environment in which your children can communicate their feelings with you. Ultimately, it is up to parents to tailor their approach to the subject as they see fit, always maintaining the will to listen and support.