Divorce can prove to be a sad, stressful and confusing event for children. No matter the age, children may feel angry or even uncertain about the prospect of their mom and dad splitting up. But as a parent, there are things that you can do to minimize the effects of this process on your kids and make it less painful and distressing for them.
Helping your kids in coping with divorce is about providing stability in your household and making sure that all their needs are met with a positive attitude. Yes, the process is not going to be seamless, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run. You may feel uncertain about how you should support your kids through your divorce, but this is totally natural although you may have to work hard to navigate through this unsettling time.
There are plenty of things that you can do to help your children adjust to divorce and grow up to be strong and confident individuals. As you help your kids avoid the stress associated with watching parents in conflict, you will help them learn that they can count on your for care, love, structure and stability. With your children as your top priority, here’s how you need to go about things:
7 Be careful of what you tell your kids
Most parents tend to freeze up when it comes to telling their kids about their divorce. But the fact is that you need to have ‘the’ conversation with your children as they hold the right to know what is going on with their family. To make the conversation a little lighter and easier on yourself and your kids, it is highly recommended for you to prepare for it well before you sit down to talk to them about it. In case you fear your children asking tough questions, it is best for you to deal with your own fears and anxiety before talking to them. Also, make sure that you plan out in advance as to what you want to tell them – trust me, it will go a long way in helping your kids handle the news.
When talking to your kids, it is vital for you to speak in an empathetic tone and discuss the most important points first. Remember, you are talking to kids and it is necessary for you to give them honest yet kid-friendly explanations. Long-winded explanations and reasons are just going to confuse your kids, so it is best for you to just say something along the lines of, “We just don’t get along with each other anymore”.
Tell them you love them no matter what
This may sound unnecessary to you right now, but you will give out a very powerful message by telling your children that nothing in the world can change the love you have for them. While you are at it, don’t forget to tell your kids that you will still care for them in every way.
6 Listen to your children and offer reassurance
All through your divorce and after it, it is extremely important for you to offer extensive support to your children. For this purpose, it is highly recommended for you to help them express their emotions and commit to truly listening to their feelings and thoughts without getting in defensive mode. Along with that, you need to offer reassurance to your kids, help clear out misunderstanding, assuage their fears and show unconditional and ever-increasing love to them. To put it simply, you need to let your kids know that your divorce is none of their fault.
For most kids out there, divorce can trigger feelings of loss – the loss of a parent, the loss of the life that they are accustomed to. To help your little ones grieve, make adjustments to their lives and adapt to new circumstances, you need to truly support their feelings. For this purpose, you should encourage your kids to share their feelings and pay attention to what they have to say. Just bear in mind that they may be feeling lost, frustrated and sad about things that you may not expect.
Your children may fear hurting you and stay a bit reluctant in sharing their true feelings with you. For this reason, you should tell them that whatever they say is totally alright. If you don’t make your kids feel that they can speak their mind to you, there is a good chance that they will find it hard to work through their feelings. Also, don’t make the dire mistake of dismissing your kids’ feelings – acknowledge them to inspire their trust.
5 Don’t make your kids serve as messengers
It may sound tempting, but it is highly recommended for you to refrain from using your kids as messengers. If you need to communicate with your ex-partner, there are plenty of other ways to do so. While you are at it, you should also refrain from questioning your children about what is happening in the other household. Why so? For the simple reason that your kids may resent it when they feel that you want then to spy on the other parent. If anything, it is best for you to just communicate directly with your ex-partner over important matters such as visitation, scheduling, school problems and health issues.
Many parents these days attempt to use their children in order to communicate with their ex-partners. The reason why this should be avoided is that it causes undue emotional stress on kids and puts them under pressure to negotiate a situation that could not be handled by their own parents. So if you have to communicate with your ex, it is best for you to use things like email for this purpose. If anything, you will be able to specifically discuss the practicalities of raising your child without initiating a discussion over negativities and opening old wounds.
A few other tips
If there is a need for you to speak with your ex, it is best for you to just stay on task and focus on the issues at hands irrespective of whether you meet him in person or speak over the phone. If your partner starts showing signs of anger, say something like, “I know how you feel, but let us just focus on discussing our child’s school report”. For the sake of your child’s emotional health, just take the high road.
4 Don’t give your kids the third degree
Experts suggest that any weekends away with their other parent should be treated as if he’s just visited an aunt or uncle. If you don’t say anything to him, it is just going to put undue pressure and stress on him, making him feel as if he has to tiptoe around his experiences. However, you should also refrain from grilling your kids because it is just going to put him squarely in the middle, which, let me tell you, is an impossible emotional position. So when your kid comes home, ask him about all the fun he had and other general questions so as to diffuse the tension – once done, let things go and don’t grill him constantly.
When parents get divorced, children have what can be considered a major emotional fall-out because of the split. This may make you wonder about any unintentional mistakes that you may have made with them. The good news here is that children tend to be rather forgiving, at least until they reach their teens when their anger may become fairly more cemented. If you think you’ve made a few mistakes, then it is time for you to apologize to your kids for them. Remember, saying sorry to your kids can go a long way in terms of helping you form a stronger bond with your little ones.
Give an explanation
When you apologize to your kids for your mistakes, make sure that you explain in detail to them as to where you believe you went wrong and then make a commitment to change your perspective and behavior from thereon. This is going to give your kids a safe signal and make them realize what an amazing parent you are.
3 Consider co-parenting
There are far more benefits to co-parenting than you can imagine. If anything, your parenting partnership will help your kids realize that they are far more important than any conflicts that may have led to your divorce. Apart from that, it will also make them believe that your love for them will remain unchanged even though circumstances and situations may differ with time.
The thing with co-parenting after getting divorced is that it will make your kids feel secure. When your kids gain confidence in the love of both parents, it will be easier for them to adjust to divorce and they will have better self-confidence too. Also, co-parenting has the potential to foster similar rules, rewards and discipline between households. This can go a long way in helping your kids understand what is expected of them and what they should expect from their parents. The best part is that your kids will get to see their parents working together with each other, which will help them learn how to peacefully and effectively resolve issues by themselves. As long as the two of you cooperate with each other, you will be able to establish a life pattern that your children will definitely carry into the future.
Keep away those feelings of hurt and anger
Co-parenting is a step that you will have to take to focus on your children and your children alone. Although this may get difficult, but it is necessary for you to give the back seat to your personal feelings of resentment, hurt and anger etc. Remember, this isn’t about you or your ex-spouse, it’s about your kids’ happiness and well-being.
2 Look after yourself
When an airplane emergency comes up, the very first safety instruction to be followed is to put the oxygen mask on yourself and then on your child. What message do you get from this? The message that you get here is that you need to look after yourself first so you can tend to your kids and fulfill their needs in the long run.
As long as you are able to remain calm and emotionally present, there is a good chance that your kids will feel more at ease. To get started with taking care of yourself, it is highly recommended for you to exercise often and make sure that you eat a healthy diet. Through exercise, it will be easily possible for you to release all that pent-up stress and frustration triggered by the divorce process. On the other hand, eating a healthy diet is going to make you feel good both inside and out, which is why you seriously need to skip on the fast food from now on. Although you may not feel like socializing right away, it is highly recommended for you to meet up with your family members and friends for the distraction that it will offer.
Keep a journal
To cope with your feelings and release all that stress, anger and sadness, it is vital for you to keep a journal and write down all your feelings in it as often as possible for you. As time goes by, you will be able to go through your journal and appreciate the long journey you’ve fulfilled and how far you’ve come.
1 Make transitions easier for your kids
Having to go back and forth between two houses, whether it is just on the weekends or every few days, may get rather stressful for your kids. You need to bear in mind the fact that these transitions tend to trigger a major change in your children’s reality. As they reunite with one parent, they separate with the other. For them, there’s always a ‘goodbye’ attached with each ‘hello’. If you have joint custody arrangements, these transition times are literally going to be inevitable, but there are quite a few things that you can do to make these transitions and exchanges easier for your kids – both when they leave and return from their other parent’s house.
As your kids prepare to leave for your ex’s place, it is vital for you to stay as positive as possible and make sure that they are dropped off on time. Here, you should help them anticipate the change that they are about to experience. Keep reminding your kids a day or two before the visit that they will be leaving for their other parent’s house on X day.
Other tips to follow
Apart from the basics, you should also help your kids pack their bags well in advance so they don’t miss out on something important that they’ll miss. If you want, you may even encourage packing familiar reminders such as a photograph or a special stuffed toy. Also, avoid picking up your child from the other parent’s house so as to ensure that you don’t interrupt a special moment – just drop off your kids and get your ex to drop them back home.