Like many divorcing parents, worries about finances and property division all likely pale in comparison to your number one concern: How your impending divorce will impact your children. Whether from well-meaning (but misinformed) family members or from outdated parenting articles, you've probably heard horror stories about the negative impact divorce can have on children. The fact of the matter is, though, that experts have discredited much of this information and the rest often involves behaviors that are avoidable.
Experts in child custody and development have come up with a few tips to help you keep your children's needs front and center during divorce. Granted, some of these behaviors may be easier said than done, but with a little effort, there are some methods you can attempt to help your children handle the changes divorce brings.
Putting your children's needs first
Even though your divorce is often best for everyone in the long run, the change that comes with ending a marriage can be a stressful time for all parents and children alike. Some of these tips may sound easy or obvious, but you may find yourself struggling to remember them in the heat of the moment. To help both you and your children through this transition, you may wish to try to consider these tips:
- Be sensitive
- Provide reassurance
- Curb negativity
While it can be easy to suddenly find yourself in the midst of a battle with your soon-to-be ex, you may find that these tricks benefit not just your children, but make for a smoother and less stressful divorce process for you as well.
Even though you have probably already mentally processed at least some of the aspects that come with your divorce, remember that your children may not have. Be aware of this when choosing the time and method of introducing new information or people into their lives. Understand that it might be best to approach the situation delicately and that your kids may need additional time to adjust.
Perhaps one of the most important elements is providing reassurance to your kids that both you and their other parent still love them very much and that this will never change. Some children may worry that, if their parents can stop loving each other, Mom or Dad may stop loving them, too. Therefore, it's important to allay this fear as early as possible and explain that this could never happen.
For many, this is the most difficult aspect of divorce, but it's also crucial. No matter how much conflict exists between you and your divorcing spouse, try to avoid exposing your children to this. A helpful way to look at the situation may be to remember that to you, that person is your ex, but to your child, he or she is and always will be a loving parent.
Be aware that your children may act out at this time; they may not be adept at handling or expressing their feelings. Try to understand this and be sympathetic, but avoid letting them take advantage to manipulate the situation in their favor. You will want to avoid using your children to deliver messages to your ex, because if they believe Mom and Dad aren't communicating, they may attempt to play one parent against the other.
Perhaps most importantly of all: Let your kids be kids. If you can be clear and upfront about the situation while refraining from exposing them to adult issues and negativity, both you and your kids can weather your divorce and move forward to a brighter tomorrow.