Divorce is a difficult topic for many families to discuss, but when done without preparation and foresight, a divorce can have disastrous consequences for children. I have seen children fail grades, become suicidal, and start abusing drugs as a result of separation/divorce gone wrong. Divorce is common. The ideal time to start working with a counselor or physician is before the divorce has been announced to the spouse and children. In this way many of the aforementioned results can be prevented.
Children and adolescents will often blame themselves for their parents' divorce. Children need to be told, sometimes multiple times, that divorce is the parents' choice and the child is not at fault. It's also important to convey that the child was conceived in love and is still wanted. They need to understand that as time went on, his or her parents grew apart, but the child was always loved, is currently loved, and will always be loved.
Children consider their parents part of their identity and will often have fantasies of reuniting their parents even after one or both have remarried. They also consider themselves 50% mom and 50 % dad. If dad tells the child their mom is bad, then the child will believe on some level that he/she is also bad.
Emotions will be raw during a divorce and often times children are questioned for information about the other parent. Children should not be used as pawns in this sort of adult drama or for courtroom litigation. Instead, I recommend collaborative law or mediation as opposed to litigation. It is very important to set up a foundation of healthy co-parenting from the beginning.
Some important questions to consider are:
Who will have custody of the child/children and when (particularly at holidays)?
Will the child have to change schools or develop new friendships?
What happens if one parent remarries to another person who has children of their own? (Here we're trying to prevent favoritism and the child feeling unwanted).
How will finances work now that two parents will have two households instead of one (alimony, child support, retirement, mortgages, etc.)?
Who will watch the children over the summer, during the work week, or when parents want to start dating again?
Divorce can be very stressful, but I can work with the family to help prevent future crisis.