How to Mitigate a Divorce's Effects on Your Children
Even if your divorce affected nobody but you, it is often accompanied by a lot of emotional stress. You have to break apart a relationship that probably brought you much joy when it worked.
However, now you have to put your life through a major upheaval as you reorganize your finances and living arrangements.
If you have children, this process may become more complicated. In many, if not most cases, children still love both parents, and they want to keep their family intact. They may not understand why their parents feel the need to separate, so they often experience fear, confusion, grief, and may believe they are somehow responsible for their family being torn apart.
You don't want your children to feel any of these things, so you must take steps to mitigate them. Use the strategies below to help your children feel loved in this difficult time.
1. Tell your children the truth about the situation.
When you explain the divorce to them, keep things honest, but simple. You should not blame the other spouse for the marriage breakdown but should inform them that their parents will no longer be living together as a family. Some parents choose to present the information with both parents present.
Give your children a brief overview of what will change in their lives. Make sure you address changes like living arrangements and schedule changes. Will your children get to live in the same house? Will they get to attend the same school and keep their friends?
Keep your tone empathetic as you explain these changes. No one reacts to change well, and children often have a harder time with change than adults.
2. Listen to all their concerns and answer all their questions.
Once you have finished speaking, give your children an opportunity to speak. They will need to express their confusion and fear, and they may likely need to discuss their grief or frustration. You should expect your children to become emotional. Even if they suspected a divorce, this discussion will make it real for them.
Your children will probably have questions for you as well. Answer them thoroughly and honestly. The more children know the less confused and afraid they will likely feel.
3. Repeatedly tell and show your children that you love them.
Children often feel guilt during a divorce because they wonder if they somehow caused the separation. You need to reassure them that they did not cause your problems with your spouse, and you must tell them you love them. They need to feel support from both of their parents.
Make sure you express your love verbally every day. You should also show it through your actions. Give hugs, help them with chores and homework, give them extra privileges, etc. Don't forget to reassure them that your love will continue after the separation as well.
4. Keep your children out of the conflict.
As you go through the divorce process, you should be mindful to shelter your children from any conflict. Don't make them choose sides, and don't give them opportunities to choose sides. Unless your spouse or partner has done something to endanger them (or you), your children have the right to love both their parents.
This means that you need to keep your fights and legal discussions private. Don't drag your children into the argument to prove a point, and don't make them witness any conflict that occurs when you and your partner argue.
5. Don't play the blame game.
Use respect and tact whenever you and your partner speak in front of your children. You should not point fingers or try to make yourself look superior.
6. Let your children spend time with your spouse/partner if safety allows.
Since your children have the right to love both their parents, you must allow your kids to see their other parent. Your children will have different needs at different times, and sometimes they will need their other parent to solve their problems. They also deserve to receive love from both parents.
That being said, you should not let your children spend time with their other parent if that time could endanger them. If your spouse or partner regularly treated your children negligently, recklessly, or violently, you should seek immediate legal advice to determine the legal options available to you to protect your children.
7. Arrange for your children to see a therapist, if necessary.
Some children benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor during this trying time. You may wish to consult the children’s doctor to determine if a referral to a third party would be in their best interest.
You cannot erase your children's fears and concerns in this trying time, but your understanding of their feelings and awareness of your conduct can go a long way towards easing the transition in their lives. If you have any further questions about the divorce process, please call Valerie M. Little Law Corporation at 604-526-3333 for a consultation.