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What Do I Do When Children Blame Themselves for a Parent Leaving?

Children often blame themselves when their parents get divorced or separate. This only adds to the turmoil caused by the break-up, and you need to address this immediately. Here are a few tips for easing and eliminating the misplaced or undeserved feelings of guilt children might feel:

  • First, let your children know they can talk to you anytime. They must feel free to honestly communicate with you about the situation.
  • Be proactive. As soon as you tell your kids about the divorce or separation, explain to them that it’s not their fault Mom or Dad left. You might have to say this several times for it to sink in and for children to really believe it.
  • If at all possible, try to get the other parent to reinforce that the break-up was not the children’s fault. Even though you both may be experiencing feelings of anger or sorrow, you must understand that your children come first and that their feelings and well-being trumps yours.
  • Finally, explain that your children are still the children of both parents and that both parents are still Mom and Dad who love them very much. The change will be that they just no longer live in the same house.
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