What Parents, Grandparents and other Adult Relatives Can Do
Parents and other family members are the key source of the reassurances that these young children need.
This reassurance is the first step to vanquish the unexpressed fear many children hold that they must have
contributed to the break-up. After all, since the breakup involves them, they must have played a part. If they
had taken out the trash, done all their chores or fed the pet, maybe their parents would not have argued as
much and the divorce would not have happened.
New feelings of confusion and sadness may emerge in the child. Parents must take time to acknowledge
and examine these feelings. Let them know that it is OK to be sad and feel lonely and confused. Children at
the elementary school level are concrete thinkers. They need to know that the basics of food, shelter and
clothing will be there. They need to be reassured that they will be taken care of.
Parents and other family members can help empower the child. The first step on the road to empowerment
is awareness. Divorce presents a new concept of not living with both parents at the same time and new
feelings. Parents and grandparents can help the child explore what living with one parent at a time is like.
They can present the upside--there will be fewer fights between the parents because they are apart. The
child can enjoy each parent without worrying about an argument erupting between them.
Everything about the divorce is best not explained in one session and then never mentioned again. It is far
more effective to talk for five or ten minutes at a time with your child several times a week about the divorce,
using each time to review, explain and reassure. This way the child will not become overwhelmed and even