Most people get married thinking that they will live happily ever after. But as we all know, this is not always the case. Adults considering divorce typically have a hard time wrapping their minds around the immense changes they are considering. But when a couple has children, it ratchets up the inner turmoil to an entirely new level. Even when divorce is clearly the healthiest option, parents can agonize over how their split will affect their children. But strategies exist for helping kids cope with divorce and adjust to their new normal sooner rather than later.
Work with Your Co-Parent
When people think of divorce, they often think that it will finally remove their spouse from their life—and all the stress that accompanied that relationship. But you should acknowledge that sharing children means you will continue some kind of relationship well into the future. For everyone’s sake, it is far better to attempt to get along and work out details of your separation together. And that is never more true than when it comes to your kids.
The strategies below should help your children cope, whether or not you maintain a good relationship with their co-parent. However, these strategies work best when both parents put differences aside and work together for the good of the children. In fact, the best first move is strategizing with your spouse on how to tell the children the news. Then, continue to discuss and agree upon how you will both handle situations that are sure to arise. The following strategies are a great start. We hope they help you develop your own unique plan to keep your kids as happy and healthy as possible.
How to Tell the Kids
It is critical that you and your spouse agree on the best way to tell the kids about the imminent breakup. Here are some guidelines you can use as a catalyst for discussing and creating a plan.
Agree on Time and Place
You’ll want to discuss and agree upon the time and place that you and your spouse can sit down together to break the news to your children. It is far better for both parents to be present, so find a time that works for both you, your spouse, and your children. It is also best to pick a time when there are no impending obligations looming for the rest of the day. This allows your children time to process the information and talk to you about any fears or anxieties they may be feeling.
Children go through different stages of emotional and intellectual development as they age. Carefully consider your children’s ages and emotional strengths when deciding how much to reveal and how to frame the breakup. Younger kids tend to benefit from simple, straightforward language, whereas teens might need a more thorough explanation.
Reassure Your Children That You Love Them
Make sure that both parents address each child and express their love. Make sure the kids know that each parent’s love for them will never change.
Reassure Your Children That They Did Not Cause the Split
Children have an uncanny way of blaming themselves for their parents’ divorce. Take the time to repeatedly let them know that they are not the cause and have absolutely nothing to do with why Mommy and Daddy are better off living apart. Let them know that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the divorce. Don’t be overbearing, but repeat this truth as often as necessary to help your child resist carrying any guilt about the breakup into his or her own future.
Encourage Open Communication
Let your children know that they can speak to you about their feelings any time of the day or night. Encourage them to share with you, and let them know that you welcome such discussions. And if your child shows reluctance to speak with either parent, perhaps offer a neutral third party they can open up to, like a counselor or therapist.
Discuss Custody Arrangements and Keep Consistent
As soon as you can, talk to your kids about how custody will work. Keep it simple and direct, assuring them that they will have lots of contact with both parents. Keep your children’s lives as normal and consistent as possible, so they feel secure and know what to expect. And always assure them that the lines of communication are open. So if they have any questions or concerns about living arrangements or activities, they can always come to you and ask.
Never Bad Mouth Your Ex
It is never healthy for parents to fight in front of the kids. Likewise, it is never healthy for parents to bad mouth each other to the children. Don’t play games with your kids’ feelings, and don’t use them to spy on your ex. You are the adult. So make sure you continue to act respectfully toward your ex in front of your children. If you find that you have trouble refraining from bad behavior, you might consider seeking a therapist. Having an impartial third party to vent to may help you recover from the break and prevent you from putting your issues onto your kids.
The knowledgeable family legal matters attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC have decades of experience helping couples and families through the difficulties of divorce. We know the personal pain your family is going through. We’ve seen many couples go through this process, and we pride ourselves on making this enormous life transition as easy and painless as possible for our clients. Our goal is to take the legal burden off of you so that you can focus your energy on helping yourself and your children move forward with a healthy and happy life. If you are considering divorce or have already begun the process, it is essential to speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can. Call us today or contact us online to set up your initial consultation in our Clarksville or Springfield office.