When Parents Divorce
Make the transition easier for you and your children by following these helpful tips
By: Shea Ashley
There is no such thing as an easy divorce. Divorce changes everything–a life built for two shatters and you’re left to pick up the pieces and begin building a new life. If that’s not hard enough, kids are often caught in the middle of this tornado.
Here are five tips that parents should be aware of when going through a divorce:
1) Explain: Most kids know when something is wrong. They have probably heard the arguing, raised voices, slamming of doors and have a good idea that things are not going to smoothly between Mom and Dad. Even if you think you’ve hidden the conflict from your children, there is a good chance they are aware, at some level, of the tension in the home. Kids need to have clarification on what is happening. When children don’t have the information they need, they allow their imaginations to fill in the blanks. Let your children know that you are getting a divorce. You can communicate this to them at a family meeting, or individually in a low-key setting. They may have already have expected it but they need to hear from your mouth in a way that they can understand. Your children will likely have many questions, some of which you may not have answers for yet. Give your child the most concrete answer you can, even if it means telling them you don’t know, but will have an answer soon.
2) Eliminate Blame: By nature, children are very ego-centric. They will likely consider and question their role in your divorce. It is important to alleviate their concerns about being to blame for your divorce. It is also important that parents don’t place blame on each other either (even if it is their fault!). Your children don’t need the ‘nitty gritty’ details, they just need to know the divorce was a decision that their parents made; and it wasn’t a result of anything they did or did not do.
3) Trash the Trash Talk: In my experience, nothing creates more difficulty for children during a divorce than high conflict parents. Don’t talk negatively about your ex in-front of the children. Don’t put down your ex to the children. Your child loves both you and your ex. Making them feel conflicted about those feelings isn’t benefiting anyone. Even if your ex is never on time and can’t make a right decision to save their life, don’t share your comments with the kids. After a separation many parents feel lonely, and want to talk to others about their feelings. See a therapist, call a friend, go to confession. Your child is not the right person to talk to about your divorce or your feelings.
4) Communicate: Having an open line of communication between you and your ex is very beneficial for the wellbeing of your children. Kids do better when they have structure and routines to follow. Moving back and forth from home to home is hard enough, let alone having a completely different set of rules and expectations from both parents. As parents, you need to set your differences aside and come up with a routine that both parties can live with. This includes routine items like bed times, homework, curfew, school attendance, etc. Think about how hard it is for you to have a crazy schedule where there is no sense of direction or consistency. You may have the coping skills to get through it, but your kids are still learning the coping mechanisms of life. Having these guidelines in place will make for a smoother transition for both you and your children.
5) Have Good Times: Yes, your world just got completely turned upside down and there is a lot you need to think about. This is also, when your children need you the most. Don’t forget that your kids are in the same boat. You need to plan for quality time together where you and the kids can just have fun! Maybe you will continue a special outing that you once did as a “whole family”, or maybe create new traditions and family experiences. Take the time to go on a bike ride or a hike, read a bedtime story, or even sit down for a family dinner. It’s time where you can just chat at ease and let your kids ask questions that are on their minds. Having these moments will help your kids with the healing process of building a new life and being comfortable and confident with the direction of where it is heading.