Dr. Heidi Speaks About the Divorce Rate among Bereaved Parents

I was glad to see that Wayne Loder cited several studies done on behalf of Compassionate Friends showing that the divorce rate among bereaved parents is 12%-16%, far below the national average.  Further, I agree with my mom (Dr. Gloria) that grieving parents, do not need to be told that their marriage cannot survive a profound loss.

However, I also think it is important to present the other side of this discussion, and to say to those of you that are divorced or are in the process of getting divorced, that in most cases this will not destroy or ruin your child’s life.  Many children today are growing up in families of divorce.  These children have gone on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.  There are several things that you can do as parents to alleviate your children’s anxiety, and insure that they will fair well following a divorce.
1) Reassure your child repeatedly that they didn’t do anything to cause the divorce, it is not their fault
2) Let your child know that they cannot change the situation
3) Keep communication open and allow your child to ask questions and talk about their feelings.  They may have ambivalent feelings and be angry and sad about the divorce, this is normal.
4) Do not ask your child to take sides or put them “in the middle” of your divorce, this is very stressful for children
5) Do not talk in derogatory or negative terms in front of your children about your ex-spouse. The children I have worked with have said that there is nothing that causes them greater pain.
6) Allow your children to continue to love and feel loyal towards both parents, allow them to keep a picture of their other parent in their bedroom and to speak in positive ways about their other parent.

Children need to know and be reassured that although their parents are no longer married, they will both always love them and be a constant in their lives.  This can be even more true when a child has experienced the death of a sibling as well.  Children who have experienced a death and/or divorce cannot only go onto survive, they can go onto thrive, but they can’t do this alone.  They need your help, support, and love.

All the best
Dr. Heidi

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