Checklist for parents to help children through divorce

A checklist of actions you can take to help your children through divorce.

Statistically, 50 percent of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. In those divorces there are many children that go through an emotional process. Here is a checklist of actions that was adopted through Start Making It Livable for Everyone Program (SMILE) that you can take to help your children.


  • Assure the child that the divorce was not his/her fault
  • Reassure the child that he/she is loved by both parents
  • Tell the child that it’s OK to feel sad because the other parent is leaving or absent


  • Support the child’s need to spend time with the other parent
  • Support the child’s desire to love both parents


  • Encourage the child to play with friends and do other activities
  • Encourage the child to pursue the same interests they had before the divorce


  • Do not make a child choose between parents by asking which parents they love more
  • Be fair with the other parent in sharing time with the child


  • Acknowledge that the child may wish to have their parents get back together, but do not encourage or support this wish
  • Talk with the child honestly about changes or moves that will affect them, before they occur


  • Maintain the individual relationship that was originally held with the child and encourage the other parent to do the same
  • Stick to a daily routine with the child
  • Make changes in the child’s life as slowly as possible, giving them opportunities to discuss these changes with either parent and rewarding them for good effort in making these changes


  • Do not use a child as one of the parents counselor or source of emotional support


  • Show the child that the parents trust their ability to adapt to these changes

Michigan State University Extension has several programs addressing some of these parenting issues including Nurturing Families and RELAX-Alternatives to Anger.

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