If you have children and are considering a divorce, the first thing on your mind is how your divorce will impact them. It is what keeps parents in an unhappy marriage longer than they want to be. While you shouldn’t seek divorce with a cavalier attitude, there are times when it is the best solution for your family’s health, safety, and emotional well-being—including your children. How do you minimize the impact of divorce on your kids?
Divorce—and Conflict WILL Impact Your Children
If you think that your kids won’t be affected, you are wrong. Let’s get that out of the way from the start. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a divorce. It just means that you need to recognize it and take some steps to minimize your divorce’s impact on your kids.
Tamara Afifi is an expert on this. She has an excellent TEDx Talk and a corresponding article that are very interesting and helpful for anyone wanting to understand more about this. She says that children whose parents stay married but have a lot of conflict fare much worse than children of divorce. The real factor in how your children will do is how you and your spouse (or ex) relate to one another.
It is okay—They need to tell you how they are doing, honestly. Even though it might be hard at times for you to hear, it is imperative that you listen with an open heart. Legitimize their feelings by recognizing that they are valid. Saying, “I know you are sad. I know you miss seeing your dad every day,” lets your child know it is okay for them to tell you how they are doing even if they aren’t doing well.
Don’t Argue in Front of Your Kids
Keep your disagreements out of sight and earshot of your children. Recognize that they often see and hear a lot more than we realize. This becomes even more difficult for your child if your arguments include topics connected to them, such as custody, visitation, child support, or responsibilities.
To make this easier, do what you are supposed to do to take care of your child and make things go smoother. Communicate with their other parent clearly about school issues, friends, health, or different situations they should know about.
Try to be kind to one another when you and dropping off or picking up your child. This will help your child feel like they don’t have to choose sides.
Never Put Your Children in the Middle
This includes veiled comments or passing messages via your child. For Example, “Tell your father….” Never use your child as a messenger, no matter how innocent the intentions. You have no idea how your spouse will respond in front of your child and if it will make your child feel caught in the middle.
While being put in the middle unintentionally is bad enough, getting blamed is the worst thing that can happen to a child whose parents conflict. NEVER, under any circumstances, blame your child for your problems.
Can’t Buy Their Love
Don’t try to become the favorite parent by showering your child with gifts or, even worse, not giving them appropriate rules. Both of these will lead to long-term problems for both parents and the child most of all.
What your child wants and needs most is quality time with you. They need boundaries that are consistent from one household to the other to have stability in their life.
Stability Means Minimizing Change
For a child, divorce can feel like their word is falling apart. The more you can keep things consistent in their life, the better off they will be. Even though some of the details may change, keeping the overall tone of life the same is helpful and stabilizing. Things like:
- Extra-Curricular Activities
Take Care of Yourself
Ideally, you should model good self-care during a crisis, and this is a crisis of sorts. Although there is a great upheaval in life, continue medical and dental appointments for you and your children, eat healthily and exercise. Get plenty of rest and be engaged socially with people who are part of a robust support system for you and your children. All these things will teach your child how to act when things in life become difficult.
Get some therapy for yourself and offer some to your child. You are all experiencing a loss, thus, a form of grief that is very real. If it is addressed healthily, it can strengthen each of you. If it isn’t, it could be your undoing.
Lots of Love
Of course, you love your child, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Be sure to reinforce that love regularly. Often, with divorce, children experience a level of insecurity. You can quell than by reminding them each day of how special they are to you.
Divorce is never easy, but with children, there are extra considerations to take into account. It is important to have an experienced attorney who can help you through the process in the best way for you and your child. Call White & Associates today for a free consultation.