By Rosalind Sedacca CDC

Divorce, like life, is rarely neat and packaged. This is especially true for divorcing parents. The reality of divorce comes with challenges. Unexpected twists, constant frustrations and times of utter helplessness when children act out or pull away.

Here are three important tips for coping and responding when your children are venting or lashing out. Or perhaps, expressing their own frustrations about being caught up in a family adjusting to separation or divorce.

1. Diffuse blame

Some children, especially pre-teens and teens, may blame one parent or the other for the divorce. Sometimes they may be correct in this interpretation. Especially under situations  they have been aware of for years (alcoholism, absent parent, domestic violence, etc.). Other times they side with one parent as a result of their prior relationship dynamics with that parent.

Regardless of why you or your spouse are blamed, keep your cool. In many cases blaming is a defense against feeling overwhelmed by the complexities in your child’s life. Suddenly there are so many changes in such a short period of time. Often this behavior is not meant to be taken personally. It is merely a child’s way of coping.

When you keep this in mind it is easier to not personalize the outbursts and accusations. Patiently remind your child that you understand their frustrations. Acknowledge they have a sincere right to feel that way. Tell them how much you love them and how much you regret their hurt and pain. Let them know this was a difficult decision for both parents. A decision you feel is the best alternative for your family’s future happiness and well-being. Be patient and consistent. And don’t internalize a child’s expressions of frustration as a lack of love for you as a parent.

2. Counter distress

Often, negative comments from your children are expressions of distress and not criticism. Children want and need encouragement, support, and security during times of stress and change. Frequently their needs are not being met because one or both parents are too caught up in their own hurt and drama. Consequently it is not surprising to hear negative comments and outbursts. Understand that this is a call for attention, recognition and the emotional healing that you can provide. Then you can move into action.

This is the time to focus on the key messages every child needs to hear. They include: You are safe … loved by both of your parents … will not lose either parent … are not to blame for the divorce … and, although change can be challenging, everything will work out okay.

3. Patiently accept

In many ways divorce is like death. Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply be there for your children. Understand what they are going through from their perspective. Talk if they want to talk. Hug and cuddle if they respond to affection. Continue as many family routine activities as possible on a day-to-day basis. Be honest and sincere when you are upset or frustrated by changes in your family life. Let your child express their frustrations, as well. Most importantly, accept and acknowledge whatever they share with you as okay for them to feel. Without judgment.

Try to put yourself into the mind-set of your child and experience the world from their viewpoint. It will help you be more empathic and open to really “hearing” what they have to say.

This is what creating a “child-centered” divorce is all about. Prioritize your children’s emotional and physical needs when making life-altering decisions related to separation or divorce.

Parents who consciously create a “child-centered” divorce have their radar constantly on. They’re attuned to subtle changes in their children’s behavior. Especially before that evolves into overwhelming challenges. Their children feel that they count. They know they are a vital part of the family dynamic – even if it is evolving into a different form. These children are less fearful. They are also more likely to move on in their lives with confidence and high self-esteem. Isn’t that what you want for your children?

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! and other valuable resources, visit:

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.