You and your spouse spend a few months talking about divorce, and you finally decide that it is something you’d like to do. After you’re certain, you take the time to break the news to your child. You try to explain the situation as well as you can and you tell them that they should still get to see both you and the other parent after the divorce.
After the fact, however, your child starts asking you concerning questions or making various comments about the divorce. These things make it clear that the child is blaming themselves. They think they caused that divorce.
You certainly want to put a stop to this if you see it happening, since you know the child wasn’t responsible. But why is it that they would think this?
Previous actions have always had consequences
One reason is that children are constantly trying to figure out where they fit in the world and what their interactions with it actually mean. They do this by pushing boundaries or acting in certain ways.
As you parent them, you teach them the things that they should do and the things that they should not do. These are the consequences to their actions. Very quickly, children start to believe that everything that happens to them that is out of their control is a response to something that they have done.
This can lead to two issues. The first is that the child will naturally assume that the divorce must be a consequence, which means that they must have done something to cause it to happen. As an adult, you know that they are putting too much emphasis on themselves, but that is simply how children think about the world.
The second issue is that children will sometimes believe that their own thoughts or desires can influence what happens. This is known as magical thinking. So, if you have a child who has ever thought about you getting divorced before, they may feel very guilty if you do.
The steps to take
For all these reasons, it’s quite important to stress to the child that the divorce is not their fault. You also need to know what legal steps to take so that both you and the other parent can stay involved and demonstrate that you still love the child and care about them.