Yes, You Can Boost Your Kids' Confidence After Your Split
Updated: Jan 15
About half of kids in the United States will experience a parent’s divorce, and of these, another half will witness the breakup of a parent’s second marriage, according to American Sociological Review.
While these are sobering stats, there’s also positive news. In the long run, children with divorced parents don’t differ greatly in their educational achievements, self-esteem, relationships, behavior and emotional health than those who haven’t experienced a parental breakup, according to a summary of studies in Scientific American Mind. The research also indicates that most children who’ve lived through a divorce grow into well-adjusted, functional adults.
However, since we know you want to do right by your kids, here are 10 key ways you can boost their confidence during and after your divorce—to help them transition better into their new family dynamic.
1. Praise your kids generously.
We’re not talking about giving everyone a trophy or A+ for effort, all day every day, but we do mean be gentle observers of what your kids are doing well: Of course, good grades and performing well on their sports teams. But also, praise often, for example, when they’re kind to others or share their lunch with a friend. Recognizing the little things goes a long way.
2. Be an awesome emotional role model for your kids.
Confidence. Optimism. Resilience. Try to live the feelings and actions you want your kids to emulate. For example, if your kids see you bounce back from tough times, they’ll learn how to deal with adversity. If they see you voice your opinion - even when it’s different from everyone else’s and not popular—they’ll learn to place confidence in themselves and their convictions.
3. Allow your kids to make mistakes—and learn from them.
While as parents we don’t want to see our kids stumble or experience pain, they’re human - and they’ll make mistakes. They’ll experience emotional turmoil as your family moves through a divorce and into a new dynamic, so it’s natural to want to shield them from anything more. However, especially during this transitional time, emphasize to them that it’s OK to make mistakes, and the most important thing is to learn from them.
4. Agree with your ex not to badmouth each other.
Whatever conflicts and disputes you have with your ex, hopefully you can agree to create a safe atmosphere for your children—and one where you don’t trash the other person so your kids don’t feel they have to take sides. Badmouthing the other parent may also make it harder for your kids to heal from what they lost in their divorce: the family structure they knew and made them feel safe. In addition, you don’t want to leave a bad taste about relationships in your kids’ mouths. This is an important way to safeguard their emotional future.
5. Recognize your ex as your co-parent.
While it might be easy to mutter negative nothings under your breath about your ex, try to look at him or her as your co-parent. Your children deserve the love of both parents and to perceive that you respect each other as parents. When you interact with your ex in front of your kids, try to make it as respectful as possible. This will make it easier for them to move past the divorce.
6. Make it easy for your kids to spend time with both parents.
Your kids need to spend quality time with both parents, so try to be as flexible as possible and work that time in around school, sports, jobs, friends, and extracurricular activities.
7. Encourage your kids to socialize.
If you notice that your kids seem down, less confident, and spend more time alone, encourage them to invite close friends over or schedule time to hang out outside the house on the weekends.
8. Encourage your kids to follow their passions.
For example, get them involved in a new sport where they’ll experience teamwork or an activity like an art or drama class where they can express themselves.
9. Keep reminding your kids that your divorce isn’t their fault.
This probably will be a conversation that you have several, if not many, times. As your family goes through the divorce process, your kids may have thoughts like, “Maybe the divorce is my fault.” Even though they might not verbalize it or want to talk about it, it’s a good idea for you and your ex to offer gentle reminders that this situation has zip to do with them or anything they’ve done.
Of course, there will also be times that your kids will want to pick your brains (maybe even uncomfortably) about the situation, so be prepared to answer their questions as age-appropriately as possible. Tip: If your kids ask you questions about your divorce, try to address them in the moment so they don’t feel like you’re shutting them down - making them feel like somehow the split is connected to them or something they did or didn’t do.
10. Let them know they can talk to a trusted third party.
Whether it’s a school counselor, a therapist, or a clergyperson, tell your kids that it’s totally fine for them to want to express their feelings to someone who can listen and offer guidance. It’s also a good idea to attend joint sessions to work through emotions, fears, and concerns about your divorce.
Above all, remind your kids that your family’s still intact—even if you live in a different home than their other parent and they see each of you separately. Normalizing your new normal as much as possible will help your kids adjust quicker.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.