Celebrity Divorces Can Be Especially Tough on the Kids
Just this month, three famous couples, all with children, announced they were splitting.
- Actress Laura Dern, 43, and her husband Ben Harper, 40. The pair has two children, Ellery, 9, and Jaya, 5.
- Grammy winner Christina Aguilera, 29, and music producer Jordan Bratman, 33. Their son, Max, is 2.
- "Cougar Town" star Courteney Cox, 46, and actor David Arquette, 39. They have a daughter, Coco, who is 6.
"These people are surrounded by incredible temptation by having people throwing themselves at them on a daily basis," she says.
While divorce is hard on any kid, experts say when you're the child of a well-known figure, the impact of your parents splitting up can be magnified because every intimate detail of the breakup is likely to be played out in the media.
"The number one priority is to protect a child from learning the specifics," says Dr. Jenn Berman, a Los Angeles-based child and family therapist and author of "SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Kid a Head Start in the First Three Years Of Life."
"Do not air your dirty laundry or intimate reasons as to why your marriage ended, like Arquette's tell-all on Howard Stern's national program," Berman tells ParentDish. "Interviews like that can have a negative impact on your relationship with your child, especially when he/she gets older and reads about it on the Internet."
Love says celebrities need to be aware that their relationship status could create scary experiences for their children, especially when kids are still in school.
"A child's classmates might feed off what they hear their parents say since we live in a society that is obsessed with celebrity," Love tells ParentDish. "And, as a result, other students might say hurtful things, which could possibly cause a child to feel alone since their parents are not around to protect them."
"Celebrity parents are forced to deal with more damage control than real-world parents because of their high profile jobs," she says. "When their child is at school, they are more likely to be vulnerable to hearing information about their folks when they are on the playground or sitting at their desk."
But Love and Berman say there are steps all parents -- celebrity or otherwise -- can take to make the transition a bit easier for children dealing with divorce:
- If a child is younger than 7, Love advises saying things such as, "Although Mommy and Daddy have grown apart, we both love you so much and this was not your fault. Mommy and Daddy are responsible for what happened and you are never to blame yourself."
- Before parents sit down talk to their kids, Love says, they should speak with a professional and learn the proper words to use when explaining their situation to their children.
- Take a cue from publicists and stick to the press release, Berman suggests. Don't reveal private details such as a third party being involved in the breakup. Also keep using phrases such as, "We still love each other and will always work together as your parents."
- Because this will be an intense conversation, Love recommends not over-explaining what went wrong and keep the talk at an age appropriate level that a child can understand.
- Never make a promise you can't keep, Love says, because keeping your child's trust has to be a priority.
- Privacy is key. In California, many couples choose to go to private court to avoid giving the public access to their custody, alimony and child support arrangements. This is especially true for celebrities.
- Always reassure a child how much you love them, Berman says.
And, while some little ones are forced to lose their homes and change schools in the face of divorce, one advantage Love says celebrity parents have is money.
"Because of their wealth, not only do parents have the ability to keep the children in the house they were raised in, but they also have the power to duplicate everything in a child's world and create the exact same environment in the new home," she says. "Consistency and familiarity is key is making a child feel safe because it reinforces structure and trust within their own environment.
Berman seconds that, adding that parents can help the transition by giving their children some sense of control over the situation.
"If Daddy is the one moving out, he should take the child shopping for a new room and let them pick out what kind of wallpaper they would like or what kind of sheets they would like to sleep on for their new room," she says. "By giving the child ability to feel in control, it can make the transition into their new routine go a bit smoother."
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.