Parenting Through Separation and Divorce

Divorce is a short-term crisis and a long-term process of understanding and healing for families.

Statewide, Michigan had 29,708 divorces in 2014, a rate of 6 divorces per 1,000 residents, which is 14 percent lower than the number of divorces in 2004. There were 1.92 marriages for every divorce in 2014, the highest ratio since 1986. (Source)

There are over 13,000 divorced/seperated parents in the cities of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. That is not including the re-married ones. That is 11% and 13% of the populations of the cities respectively. (Source)

Children of a divorce are children of a trauma. Like any other traumatic event in life, there are impacts.

Divorce can be traumatic to children, and being in a family that’s intact but not functioning well (high conflict, spouse abuse, instability, substance abuse) is also problematic. In these cases, divorce may be a better option.

A healthy management of divorce/separation can decrease the impact of this traumatic event significantly.

The worst thing that can happen to the children is not the divorce itself, but the lack of communication between the parents.

Be honest! Don’t lie to children about the situation, but don’t give them all the details either. Research shows children feel less stability when they feel something is off between their parents and they are being lied to.

Common Experiences of Parents During Divorce:

1. Disappointment

2. Fear

3. Failure

4. Guit

5. Rejection

6. Anger

7. Relief

8. Loneliness

9. Depression

10. Disorientation

11. Loss of routines and friends

12. Stress and anxiety

13. Financial constraints

14. A need to redefine family and marriage

15. Feeling like things are out of control.

Common Experiences for Children during divorce:

1. Powerlessness

2. Rage

3. Guilt

4. Shame

5. Worry

6. Loss/ depression/ sadness

7. Increased needs

8. Anxiety / fear

9. Confusion

Best practices for children 0-6 years old:

1. Don’t interpret their behavior as they are being “bad” or trying to annoy you.

2. Maintain normal routines. Seek stability.

3. Give simple concrete explanations

4. Teach healthy ways of dealing with feelings

5. Catch them being good and let them know.

6. Provide extra TLC (Tender, Love and Care)

Best Practices for Children 6-11 years old:

1. Address the divorce and your child’s feelings openly.

2. Provide stable and consistent care.

3. Read age-appropriate books about divorce.

4. Provide reassurance that you will take care of yourself and them.

Best Practices for Children 12 – 18 years old:

1. Keep communication lines open

2. Gauge whether mood is related to divorce or age

3. Supervise appropriately and keep communication lines open

4. Avoid parentidication. Keep boundaries.

5. Make home attractive to teens

6. Discuss anxiety surrounding own future

7. Get involved in therapy or peer group activities

Keep in Mind

  • It is your job to manage your stress. Don’t affect your children with your stress.
  • Manage your feelings. Don’t share them with your child if they are problematic or show anxiety or instability.
  • Take care of yourself so you can help them.
  • Validate their emotions. Don’t deny them.
  • Don’t put them in the middle.
  • Don’t use them for communication.
  • Don’t bad mouth your ex spouse infront of them.
  • Don’t be negative about the other spouse infront of chikdren
  • Don’t ask kids questions to gain information on your ex spouse
  • Support the strengths of your ex-spouse
  • Don’t use kids as ammunition
  • Don’t fight infront of kids (walk away when you are angry or if the other spouse is confrontational)
  • Make time for your kids
  • Ignore minor problems
  • Attention is the best thing you can give your children (not for negative behavior)


C: Connect with your ex-spouse

A: appreciate your ex-spouse’s situation

R: respond to your ex-spouse’s needs

E: empower your ex-spouse to problem-solve jointly.
Source: University of Michigan Center for the Child and Family Parent Handbook

Wissam Charafeddine


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