Divorce is hard no matter what the circumstances are. It can cause even the best parents to lose focus on what is best for their children, which in turn can cause children to feel angry or sad. Children also don't always agree with a divorce or understand the reasons behind it, which can create even more anger and resentment. A parent can turn their children's anger about divorce into acceptance if they are there to help them cope with the stress of the divorce. It’s important that divorced parents put aside their own anger and hurt feelings in order to help their children better work through the emotional trauma of a divorce.
These guidelines, along with the help of a therapist, can be very helpful when dealing with children angry about divorce. Read on for our tips on how to help your children deal with their anger over a divorce.
Be There for Them
Love your child and be there for them even if their words are hurtful. It's important to remember that your child's feelings, regardless of how negative, are more important than your feelings. "This isn't about you. Or about your ex," says Robert E. Emery, Ph.D. "It's about your kids and their parents. It's about finding a way to be a parent, even as your marriage is unraveling.
Hold Them Accountable
Hold your child accountable for their anger, but don't abandon them because the pain is too much for you to deal with. Be there to show them what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be there for your child while the issues are being worked out. Don't avoid your child or the anger your child is feeling just because it's painful to you.
Express Love Openly
Make sure your child always feels loved. According to a 2013 study, mothers are often less supportive and affectionate towards their child after a divorce. Show love through your words and actions when you talk to your child, no matter how hurtful you feel they are being toward you.
If they won’t communicate with you, write them letters on a regular basis. Keep a connection going, even from a distance. With technology, it is easy to reach out to a child who is refusing to communicate. Send a weekly text or email to reassure your child you love them and will be there when they are ready to communicate.
If the anger continues, be willing to go to therapy with your child. Show your child that you'll try anything you can to rebuild your relationship. If your child refuses to go to therapy with you, go alone. If they're that angry, you can at least benefit from talking to a trained professional who will help you deal with the pain and stress.
Don't Take Things Personally
Don’t internalize and take things your child says personally. Keep in mind that the anger is coming from a fear of losing you as a parent. Wear a thick layer of emotional armor to protect yourself, and don't hold anything they say against them. Make sure not to discount their wishes, either. "It is normal for children to wish that their parents will get back together again," says child and family therapist Meri Wallace.
Be a Good Listener
If your child has questions and needs to talk about the divorce, be willing to listen and respond. "Give your children the freedom to express their feelings," Wallace says. "Reassure them that it’s natural to cry and it is okay with you. Encourage them to verbalize their anger, too."
It's important to try and see things from their perspective. Don't tune them out—it will only cause the anger to grow and them to lose trust in you.
Get Other Family Members Involved
Ask other family members who your child trusts, such as a sibling or grandparent, to step in. They can talk to your child in a positive way about the importance of your relationship and hopefully help alleviate some of their concerns and fears.
Only ask one or two people to get involved. You don't want the entire family ganging up on your child, as that may push them further away.
Take Care of Yourself
Before you can help your child, you have to heal your own pain. You may feel rejected and hurt, but it’s important you stay strong for your child’s sake. Practice self-care, let yourself go through the grieving process, attend therapy if necessary.
Don't Put New Relationships Above Your Child
You may have a new love interest post-divorce, and while that can help you move on, it can also distract you from the fact that your child is angry. Just keep in mind that no relationship is as important as the relationship you have with your child. Make time to listen to them, support them, and spend time with them.