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How will children handle their parent’s divorce?

Few choices in life or more difficult than the decision to end a marriage. Add in the presence of children from that marriage and an already difficult decision becomes even more complicated. Although the reaction will vary depending on the child’s age and personality, common reactions to news of parents divorcing can include:

  • Frustration. Children are often frustrated by the lack of control they have over their own lives. Knowing this can help parents understand the frustration that may erupt from a child during discussions about divorce.
  • Fear. Children know that life is about to change. A fear of the unknown is a likely response to finding out that their parents are about to divorce.
  • Guilt. The idea that children often feel guilty for their parent’s divorce is not a new one. We now have more information on the reasons behind this guilt that can help us to navigate the conversation. Kids are often uncertain about what is going on between their parents and, with no other information, turn on themselves. We can help children who are feeling this guilt by providing reassurance that the divorce is not their fault.

Child psychology experts remind parents that children will express these emotions in different ways. Some may lash out while others withdraw. Parents can help their children build resilience while going through this process by ensuring that they have emotional support and reassurance that they are safe and loved.

How can I help my children through this process?

It helps to have a basic understanding of the laws that surround divorce so you can explain how the divorce will impact your children. Giving them age-appropriate information can take some of the unknown away from the situation and give them a better sense of what the future will look like in their situation.

In Tennessee, the courts encourage parents develop a Parenting Plan. This plan provides guidance on parenting responsibilities and can include which parent serves as the Primary Residential Parent or the one the child spends the most time with. This generally includes a breakdown of how many days the child spends with each parent and an outline of how the parents will share holiday and vacation time. It should also explain how the parents will make decisions about the child’s educational and medical needs.

If parents cannot come to an agreement, each submits their own plan, and the court will likely send the parents to mediation to develop a resolution. Mediation is a form of negotiation that is guided by a neutral third party. If this fails, the court will hold a hearing to decide the matter.

The truth is children are not the only ones who feel frustration, fear, and guilt while going through a divorce. Although the above information can provide clarity of parents and children alike, it is often helpful to seek legal guidance for further aid. An attorney who specializes in family law matters like parenting plans can discuss your goals and help to better ensure your family’s interests are protected throughout the process.

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