Divorce is never easy for the two people going through it, but it can be especially hard on the children who usually have no say in the process and no control over the outcome. As a divorcing parent, addressing your kids’ needs through this emotional time can be challenging.
While this process may be difficult for the entire family, there are some ways to help your children get through and thrive during and after the divorce. Keeping these suggestions in mind and being sensitive to changes in your child’s attitude and behavior may protect them from divorce fallout that can bring with it years of therapy to get over. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our team of attorneys knows how stressful marriage dissolution can be, and we want to help you and your family through it so you have the best shot at an amazing future.
What to Do during the Divorce Process
You may not be able to shield them entirely from the impact of the ongoing divorce, but you can help your children cope with it in a healthy way. One of the steps you can take during your divorce to help your child thrive is to avoid badmouthing your soon-to-be ex-spouse. If you disparage the other parent or talk about their terrible qualities, this could send the wrong message to your kids.
Kids generally love both of their parents, and the divorce should not change that. A child often comes from both parents equally and when one parent says negative things about the other parent, the child can often interpret that to be a negative thing about them as well. Getting your child to see the other spouse as the “bad guy” or the source of the problems you might currently be facing is not a good way to ensure you get more time or custody over the children. Making the children feel bad about loving the other parent or wanting to spend time with him or her will generally come back to bite you later. So don’t do it.
Keep Their Lives Consistent
If your kids participated in sports before the divorce, keep them involved after the divorce. If you regularly attended their school activities, continue to do so, even if it may be painful to see your spouse. Maintaining regular routines can assure your children that, although their parents are not living together anymore, not everything in their lives will change and they can still enjoy both of their parents equally.
Be Honest with Them
Kids pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for. Telling them the truth in an age-appropriate way – whether about possibly moving to a new home or the reality that their parents are not going to get back together – will continue to foster trust between you and your children, even when things get hard. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or whether you are saying too much. In those cases, it’s wise to start seeing a divorce coach or a therapist who can help guide you through learning how to address certain difficult areas of discussion.
Put Them in Counseling
Do not wait for things to fall apart for your children before considering some outside help. Establishing a relationship with a compassionate therapist as early in the process as possible can provide your children with a safe and neutral setting to vent their concerns. Even when children do not appear to be struggling with their parent’s divorce, providing them with someone neutral for them to talk to can help make sure issues are addressed as they arise rather than having to address them after they’ve set in as problems.
Moving Forward after Divorce
Although hearing the Judge grant your divorce may feel like you’re finally able to start moving forward, finalizing the divorce does not necessarily end your children’s adjustment period. Consider the following that could help your child thrive as you move on after your divorce.
Treat the other Parent with Respect
There will be occasions when you and your ex are likely to see each other, such as your children’s school activities, graduations, and big life events. Your children may have anxiety at the thought of the two of you in the same room when they understand the tension is high. While an ugly divorce may make this seem like an impossible task, your kids will benefit from your ability to be respectful toward their other parent and show them that, even when adults do not get along, the children are still made to be a priority over everything else.
Do Your Best to Continue to Co-parent
It is tough for children to live by two different sets of rules. If you and your ex can stay on the same page regarding your kids’ expectations and the ground rules for their behavior, they will have a much easier time transitioning between households. This can include things like similar bedtimes, punishments, snack rules, etc. This will help create a situation where your child knows you and their other parent, although no longer together, are still a team when it comes to taking care of them.
Never Put Them in the Middle
Avoid asking your children what the other parent is doing or having them deliver things to your ex, especially not child support checks, court documents, or anything the child could see and feel uncomfortable about. This behavior puts your kids in the difficult and painful position of trying to please you while ‘spying on’ the other parent. Although your child may not realize it right away, they will resent you for it later. If you need to exchange information with your ex, do it yourself in whatever way you are most comfortable, such as over the phone or through an attorney.
Love Your Kids More than You Hate Your Ex
Following this directive could help you make decisions that put your children’s interests first, rather than those that ‘get back at’ your ex. Your kids can weather the divorce best if they know that they are still your priority, regardless of how you feel about their other parent.
While you certainly never wanted your children to go through a divorce, keeping your focus on them and developing a workable post-divorce relationship with their other parent can lessen the adverse effects of divorce and allow your kids to recover both during and after this process.