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How to help your kids adapt to divorce

The ebb and flow of family life is different in every household. If you recently informed your children that you are planning to divorce, the current state of emotions among your family members may remind you of a roller-coaster ride. One child might be angry while another appears unaffected. You might feel sad one minute and eager to move forward in life, the next. All of these feelings are natural and expected as the weeks and months ahead unfold, and you and your children adapt to a new lifestyle.  

The good news is there's no reason your children shouldn't be able to overcome the challenges they may encounter, barring any extenuating circumstances that would impede their ability to do so, that is. Like most good parents in California, you want to be there for your kids to support them and encourage them while you all face life's changes together. There are several things you can do along the way to help them keep stress levels to a minimum and avoid major complications.  

Meet your children where they're at 

While you might just want to "get it over with" and talk to your kids as a group when you discuss your impending divorce, it's always good to consider that each child may be at a different maturity level, so the needs of one may be very different from the needs of another. For instance, you might not wish to share as much information with a four-year old as you might with a teenager.  

By trying to support your children according to their own age and maturity levels, you may ensure that you don't give younger children more than they can handle and also don't make older children feel as though you're talking down to them. 

Verbalize love and support 

As a parent, you assume your children know you love them. However, when going through a major life change like their parents' divorce, your children may fare better if you remind them that you love them -- out loud. It's also a good idea to let them know you're there to listen and that they needn't worry about upsetting you if they have questions or troubling emotional issues they want to talk about.  

It's also critical that your kids understand that they are not to blame for your divorce. Again, you may assume they already know this, but many children internalize such situations, thinking they did something to cause their parents' marital problems. It may be helpful to assure them that the situation is not their fault. 

Give them ample time with both parents 

You and your spouse are going your separate ways but your children love you both and will likely transition more easily if they have ample time with both parents. In fact, the court is typically of the opinion that unless issues that would cause impediment to children's well-being exist, they should maintain active, healthy relationships with both parents. 

Support for problem issues 

If you feel unequipped to handle a particular emotional issue, you might consider joining a family support group in your area where you and your kids can glean encouragement and understanding from others who have trod similar paths before you. Licensed counselors, ministers and other support advocates are available as well.  

Regarding legal issues, you can explore local support options that connect you to guidance and assistance, whether it's a custody disagreement, financial matter or other family-related problem. 

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