Divorce is hard—no matter what role you play in it—husband, wife, children, extended family, and even friends. It can feel like a total upheaval of life circumstances. It’s confusing, often sad, and at times disappointing. Children feel every bit of it. Going through a divorce is complicated and difficult on many levels for the couple involved—but having children adds a level of complexity and necessitates additional care and consideration when divorcing.
If you’re beginning the process of divorce, here are a few tips for managing it with children:
You’re likely to be experiencing a surge of emotions surrounding the divorce and your children are too
Take into consideration their age, how they process and deal with emotions—and use great care with their feelings. Invite and encourage them to talk about their emotions with you and other close and trusted friends and family. Understand that they probably haven’t developed tools to understand and process the emotions they’re experiencing. And if your children are having a difficult time get them help in the form of counseling.
Keep the fights and legal discussions away from the children
Even when parents are staying together, fights raise tension and create fear and uncertainty for children, but when there’s an impending divorce, seeing mom and dad fight and talk about spousal maintenance, child support, other legal details and adult matters, compounds the effect of the very real fear and uncertainty that your children are facing. Turning to a mediator for help rather than an adversarial lawyer can equip you to respectfully sort through decisions that need to be made so that heated discussions can be kept to a minimum or even eliminated.
Don’t cast blame
Even though you may feel like casting blame, vitriol, or making disparaging remarks about your soon-to-be-ex spouse, realize that just because the marriage is ending, it doesn’t mean that your children don’t still deeply love the other parent. Avoid casting your feelings about the situation upon your children—especially as a tool of manipulation. Not only is this unfair for children, but it can wind up “backfiring” and creating negative feelings for you, the person speaking negatively about someone that your children love very much.
Talk with your children
Talk about what will change but also focus on the things that won’t change, and avoid interrupting daily routine as much as possible. Just like you, your children are dealing with a lot right now—and are likely coping with a lot of fear stemming from change and uncertainty. Discuss the upcoming changes, but also be sure to talk about what WON’T change—like school routines, friends, love from both parents, etc. Keeping a routine in place will help your children deal with the changes in a more comfortable and secure way.
If you need help navigating a divorce, with or without children, please call or send an email. I would love to help you handle this in a healthy, beneficial, dignified way.