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Why do kids blame themselves for their parents' divorce?

If you've been consulting books or other sources of information on helping children deal with divorce, you've probably heard that kids often blame themselves, at least in part, for their parents' break-up. Why is that and what can you do help prevent your children from inflicting these feelings of guilt and blame on themselves?

Kids often feel powerless, and perhaps no more so than when they see their parents' marriage fall apart. By convincing themselves that they contributed to the break-up or that they can do something to bring their parents back together, they're giving themselves a feeling of power they don't actually have.

This feeling of responsibility may stem from hearing their parents argue about them and about how to raise them. It's not uncommon for children to hear parents in even the happiest marriages fighting about what to do when they bring home a bad grade, get into trouble at school or don't do their chores. When parents divorce, it's only natural to wonder if those things contributed to it.

You don't need to go into detail about the reasons for your divorce with your kids, but it's essential for both parents to explain to that the problems in their marriage had nothing to do with them. Children should be encouraged to think favorably of and respect both parents.

Further, don't burden your kids with your anger, hurt or frustration over your ex. The more you do that, the more they'll feel that they're expected to do something about it or at least to make you feel better - - which isn't their job. Don't argue with your ex or discuss legal issues (even when they involve custody or visitation) in front of them.

One way to reduce the amount of self-blame that kids have regarding divorce is for parents to work with their attorneys to put a solid parenting plan in place that both can support and stick to. When kids can see their parents cooperating to provide the best possible care and support for them, they'll have an easier time getting through these changes in their lives.

Source: Our Everyday Life, "Do Kids Think They're to Blame in a Divorce?," A. Low, accessed Sep. 06, 2017

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