If you are going through a divorce, one of the most significant concerns you may have is the effect it has on your children. This undoubtedly is an exceedingly difficult time for them, however, there are steps you can take to ensure your children adjust to the effects of divorce on your family in a healthy way.
Your child may feel sad, confused, angry, guilty or worries about what will happen to them now that your family dynamics have significantly changed.
What should you tell your kids about your divorce?
Plan how and when you will tell your children. It is always best for both parents to sit down with their children and tell them together. Although this is not always possible depending on the relationship between the two parties. Either way, think about where to speak to your children; choose a place that they are comfortable and that is well known to them. You do not need to go into specifics when speaking with your children. Think “less is more”. Older children may have direct questions. Do your best to answer them honestly. The last thing your children need right now is dishonesty from their parents. Keep it simple for younger children. They will be less likely to ask specific questions. Speak to them in a language they will understand.
Reassure your kids that you still love them and always will. Reassuring your children during this time is imperative. Let them know there will be many opportunities to spend time with both parents. Reassure them they are not losing either parent.
Let them know they are not the cause of the separation. Some children, especially younger ones will worry that they are to blame for the separation. It is a good idea to speak to your children to reassure them that the separation is a problem between you and the other parent, and that there was nothing that they could have done to prevent it. Let them know the divorce is final and that there is nothing they can do to stop it.
Encourage your kids to open up to you and talk about how they are feeling. When your kids are trying to speak to you, listen carefully to what they are saying and for hidden meanings. Give them the opportunity to be open and honest with you. Answer any questions with complete honesty. Assess their feelings to see if they would benefit from speaking with psychologist or other health professional.
Less is more. Do not discuss adult decisions in front of the children. Only speak to them about what they need to know. They should not attend any mediations, meetings with lawyers or be in court.
How can you ease the transition?
Discuss the changes with your children. Be open and honest with your children about who they will be living with, when visitation with the other person will occur. They may have questions, answer openly and frankly. The children have a right to know what changes will occur that will be affecting their lives. Make sure to only discuss these issues once all these issues have been finalized and not throughout the process, as plans may change, and it will likely confuse the children.
Do not speak negatively about the other parent to your children, family, or friends. This is a big mistake often made by many parents. Sometimes you may need an outlet to vent about the other parent. In these cases, it is best to seek the help of a professional divorce coach or psychologist. Equally important is not to post any derogatory comments on social media about the other parent.
Keep routines are normal as you can. Change is hard on anyone, especially children who are used to their ongoing routines. Children thrive on routine and they rely on you, as their parent to keep routines normal so they know what to expect. Routines should be similar in both households if this is possible. This may not always be possible in a difficult co-parenting relationship. Do your best.
Use your best manners when picking up or dropping off the children with the other parent. Your kids are watching. You many think they are not, but rest assured they are. Lead by example. Keep your comments about the other parent to yourself. Refrain from any name calling towards the other parent. Show your kids that you can still be polite in the most difficult circumstances. Your kids will thank you later.
Quality time is important. Spend quality time with each child, preferably one on one. Do something special; watch a movie, go out to dinner, go to the park, go on a picnic. There are so many things you can do to spend quality time with your child. Make it special. It is important during these trying times that your child knows you love them, and they are still the centre of your world.
Do not alienate the other parent. This is one of the worst things you can do. Some parents believe they are punishing the other parent, but in fact, they are punishing their own child. Let the child speak to the other parent whenever they ask. Encourage your child to spend time with the other parent. Do not ever make your child feel like they must choose between you and your ex-spouse and ensure that you never make your child feel they are disloyal to you if they want to spend time with the other parent.
Take a step back and respect the other parent’s decisions. It is important that you do not undermine the other parent’s authority or reverse any decision they have made. Co-parenting is an important part of making this new arrangement work for your child. This means discussing things with the other parent such as rules and discipline. Try to keep it consistent between both households. Seeking the assistance of a mediator who can help with co-parenting is a positive step if you are having difficulty with co-parenting.
Your children are not messengers. Do not ask your children to deliver messages to their other parent on your behalf. In addition, do not ask your children for information about the other parent. This puts your child in an uncomfortable situation and only creates problems for co-parenting.
Family is still family. Some people forget when they separate or divorce, that there are other members of the family who play a large role to the detriment of the child’s wellbeing; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Do not alienate the children from the rest of their family. Keep them in contact to ensure a balanced family life.
Love, love, love. The most important way you can help your kids is to love them and let them know you are always there for them. This has been stated before, and this cannot be stressed enough. Show they the love they need, and they will adapt to the changes positively.
Take care of yourself. You cannot take care of your children if you are not taking good care of yourself. Take time to re-group. An hour here or there can work wonders. Get your hair or nails done. Purchase a new outfit. Do something nice for you.
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