Dealing with Divorce as a Family: For Young Children

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A young girl sits beneath a tree on the grass wearing jeans and a jean jacket with a sad/forlorn look on her face

Sadly, divorce is pretty common nowadays. And if you’re a young child experiencing what it feels like to have divorced parents or having to watch them go through the process, life is going to get difficult. However, if you take these simple steps of realizing you’re not alone and that your Heavenly Father and Savior will work with you every step of the way, things will be just a bit more bearable.

Step 1: Find Support From Friends and Heavenly Father

For some reason a lot of kids don’t like letting it be known that their parents are getting divorced. It’s personal, and we get it, but that doesn’t mean that you should cut yourself off from your friends and family.

Bishops, leaders, teachers, and classmates are good places to start when looking for people to talk to outside immediate family. Chances are you even likely have friends who are in the same boat as you are, and you can help each other out.

However, there’s one person you can always turn to who knows exactly what you’re going through: the Savior, Jesus Christ.

A search concerning divorce and young children helped me to find some great advice, “When emotions are raw and ugly, the best therapy is prayer. No one understands us as does our Heavenly Father. Talking it out with someone else who loves you also helps to assuage the hurt.”

If you learn to understand that our Savior and Heavenly Father are always there for us and are always ready to listen, then you will find yourself feeling less alone in dealing with your parent’s divorce.

Tell Heavenly Father how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and what you’re most worried about. Then ask Him to comfort and guide you in dealing with these emotions and interacting with your parents.

One last piece of advice I have to leave you in this section is that you should always be open with your parents about how you feel. If you don’t talk to them about things you’re having a hard time with or don’t understand, then your relationship with them will get uncomfortable.

No matter what happened to make your parents to divorce, they still love you and you should still give them the chance to be your parents.

Step 2: It’s Not Your Fault

A young Caucasian boy in a yellow shirt is shown from the shoulders up staring off with a calm/almost sad look on his face.
photo cred: Séan Gorman

Many kids end up wondering if it was because of them their parents ended up divorcing. I PROMISE YOU, it’s not your fault. When adults get divorced it’s usually because they feel their relationship with each other is not working, not their relationship with you.

Maybe you heard your parents fighting over you or about you one day, it still is not your fault. The reason your parents are fighting is because they are having a harder time understanding each other, they are sad things are changing, and they need to re-learn how to communicate with each other again.

In August 2015 The Friend came out with an article titled Help! Someone’s Getting a Divorce, in this article, they answer a lot of common questions kids have when their parents are getting divorced.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from that article, “You may think you could have helped your parents stay together. But the truth is that it’s not your fault at all. They made the decision to get divorced. The children in the family are not responsible for the divorce.”

Instead of wondering about whether or not you did something to cause your parent’s divorce, focus on thinking about the things you love most about each parent.

It can be hard to do that when they’re always fighting and getting angry, but remembering that they are good people who still love you will help you to see they’re still the parents you know and love.

Step 3: Evil Step-Parents are for Disney Movies

An Iron sits right side up on top of an ironing board that has a man's white dress shirt laying on it
Photo cred: Filip Mroz

When I was in third grade my dad had recently gotten remarried and I was getting used to life living with my step-mom. In my class, I had quite a few friends who also had divorced parents and we would always complain about our step-parents to each other every day at school.

I would join in because I didn’t want to be left out, but I always felt uncomfortable saying such mean things about my step-mom because, well, she wasn’t really that bad, to be honest.

Sure, she was different and had different rules that my brother and I had to get used to (which was hard), but she was still a really nice person.

I’ve learned from many years of living with my step-mom that my only real enemy is my own attitude. Sure it’s common for families to argue with each other, but because of my constant complaining with my group of friends, I would focus on the things I didn’t like about my step-mom instead of the things I DID like.

Christ teaches that service is part of his plan of happiness for us, and I have learned that when I am serving others I’m not only in a better mood, but I’m also learning to love the people I serve.

I slowly learned how to better serve my step-mom by helping to keep the house clean, making sure to put away my toys when I was done playing, doing the dishes without being told, and giving her compliments on her appearance or the dinner she made.

Doing these things helped me to be in a better mood and to have a better attitude about my parents’ divorce and the changes that came with it. Watch this video to better learn about service and ways you can serve your family.

I’d like to challenge you to think about the things you like about your step-parent and always try to better serve and be respectful to them. I promise that if you always work at trying to have a better, more positive attitude, your relationship with your parents—all of your parents—will greatly improve.

Step 5: What You Can Do to Help

A young girl is giving a little boy a piggyback ride in a grassy area with the sun's glare peaking above their silhouetted heads.
Photo cred: Jenn Evelyn-Ann

So now that you know that your parents’ divorce wasn’t your fault, you may feel like you’d like to help them so there will be less arguing. And while each family and situation is different, there are ways you can help your family to get through this difficult time.

We already mentioned service as a way of helping your parents, but I’d also like to go a little bit deeper into the attitude side of things. If you practice a few of these ways of thinking, your attitude and the attitude of those around you could change for the better.

Deal with your emotions

You might feel something we call resentment, which just means that you kind of feel angry at your parents or possibly you blame just one parent in particular for the divorce.

Maybe one parent did something that hurt your family and led to the divorce, or maybe you feel like they just gave up and didn’t think about what their divorce would do to you.

These feelings are normal and possibly even justified, but if you don’t learn to forgive, you’re going to feel all that pain and anger for your whole life. I’ve seen this before in my own family, and I’ve learned that not forgiving your parents makes it very hard for you to get along with and respect your parents.

I found I was always angry or upset and I would get into stupid fights with my parents, not because I really disagreed with what they were saying, but because I was angry with them for making me feel so hurt and sad.

I didn’t like always feeling sad and angry. I loved my parents and I wanted things to be as normal between us as possible, despite the divorce. So in an effort to feel better and work on my attitude and feelings toward my parents, I prayed to God for help in forgiving them.

And while my feelings of sadness and anger did not leave all at once, I felt so much lighter and better knowing that God could help me with the weight of these feelings.

Forgiveness isn’t an easy or quick process, but if you ask Heavenly Father for help, you will notice a change start to happen in your heart that will help you feel love and peace. And this change in your heart will help you and your family to come closer together in the divorce.

Don’t gossip/talk bad about the other parent

We all know how easy it is to complain about our parents, divorced or not. They always have a ton of rules, they don’t always let you play when you want to, and sometimes they restrict how much candy or cereal you can have.

However, when your parents are divorced and you sometimes even have a step-parent, you should try to be better about complaining and who you complain to.

When I was little, my brother and I complained too often about the changes our step-mom made in our dad’s house to my mom, and she would sometimes take what we said too seriously, which would lead to a fight.

Sometimes my mom would start saying things about my dad that she didn’t like or that made her angry, and I would see that as a pass to complain about him too. That’s not something I should have done and you should avoid it too.

Talking bad about one parent in front of the other is not going to help things get better or easier. Instead, it goes back to making you have a bad attitude toward that parent and we should always respect our parents, no matter what mistakes they make.

If your parent (or possibly even grandparent) starts gossiping about the other parent, try to find a time to let them know that you don’t like it when they do that. They both are still your parents, and even if you are angry with both or just one of them, you still need to work on having a positive attitude toward them.

 Moving Forward

Two distinct footprints are seen in the sand in an apparent forward walking order
Photo cred: Christopher Sardegna

I hope these steps help you or others you know to better deal with the difficulties of divorce. Most of these steps came inspired from personal experience and from church magazines like The Friend, and The New Era. One of my favorite articles I read in preparation for this article but didn’t get the chance to go into was titled “Overcoming Family Challenges.

I’d like to encourage all my readers, big or small, to comment any further items of advice you would offer to help youngsters through such a difficult time as divorce. If you learned anything from personal experience or from others experiences, I’m interested in knowing what you have to say.

And please stay tuned for my next two articles that will be released soon continuing in this series about divorce. I will write articles tailored to teenagers dealing with divorced parents and an article for the parents themselves in how to stay close to their kids through such a difficult time in their lives.

However, whoever or wherever you are in life right now, please remember that Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ know what you’re going through and are there to help you through any trial or triumph you encounter.

Camille Beecroft is a senior at Utah Valley University Studying English with an emphasis in Writing Studies. She loves to speak and learn different languages, always searches for ways to satisfy her wanderlust and connect with people, and compulsively buys/watches movies when she gets stressed.