Custody and Divorce
It may be a common refrain, but it is incredibly accurate: children are the ones who suffer the most when a couple gets divorced.
Divorces are fraught with fear and confusion for children of all ages, and it is the responsibility of both parents, no matter the context of the divorce, to help ensure that their children are able to cope and adjust to this massive change in their lives.
This can be difficult when you yourself are going through such a trying and emotional time, but keep in mind that your children need your support now more than ever.
Below we have detailed eight useful tips to help your children cope with your divorce.
1) Be honest and forthright
Do not be misled by the title of this tip—it doesn’t mean you should tell your children every little detail of your divorce. However, the information you do choose to share with them should not be a lie. Share age-appropriate information regarding the divorce, new living arrangements, and other changes that will be occurring in their lives. Be forthright about the fact that you are getting a divorce—don’t try to “protect” them from it or they could be blindsided and unprepared when they do find out, making it much harder to cope.
2) Avoid blaming the other parent
It can be very easy to blame your spouse for your divorce when discussing the situation with your children, particularly in cases where your spouse was unfaithful or did something else that directly caused the divorce. However, you should do all you can to avoid playing the blame game in front of your kids. In most cases, it is important that the children be able to maintain a strong relationship with both parents, and not placing blame on the shoulders of either parent can help ensure that your kids will be able to do just that.
3) Don’t fight in sight or earshot of children
It should be obvious that you and your spouse need to avoid fighting in front of your children, but also try to be cognisant of whether or not your kids can hear or see you fighting. Your divorce may devolve into a contentious battle between you and your spouse, but you should do your best to shield your children from your hostility.
4) Try to work with your spouse
The best way to help your children cope with your divorce is to present a unified front with your spouse on all the aspects you can. Talk to them and answer questions together. Following the divorce being finalized, work together to be as accommodating as you can to your kids’ wishes and needs. Even if things like custody and visitation became major battles that had to be decided in court, you should do all you can to work with your spouse to follow the established plan and work together towards the best interests of your children.
This may seem simple, but its importance cannot be overstated. Listen to your kids during your divorce. Pay attention, be patient, and address all of their questions and concerns. The worst thing your kids can do is try to bottle up their emotions, and as their parent, you need to do all you can to provide them with an outlet to voice whatever they are thinking.
6) Don’t use them or pit them against the other parent
One of the worst thing a divorced parent can do is try to use the children as leverage or as a tool to hurt the other parent. No matter how angry you may be, no matter how tempting it seems, you need to do everything you can to avoid pitting your children against the other parent. Be very aware of the language you use when talking about your ex-spouse so as to avoid subconsciously influencing your kids with your own anger and emotion.
7) Maintain routines established in parenting plan
As previously mentioned, whatever guidelines and routines are established in your parenting plan should be adhered to as much as possible. Children need consistency and routine for proper development, and both you and your ex should do your best to establish routines and stick to them. Uncertainty is one of the hardest things for children to deal with in a divorce.
8) Provide assurances of love and safety
Above all else, you should assure your children that they are loved by both parents, and they will be safe and loved no matter what happens during the divorce. Reassurances of love and protection are easy, quick, and vital to helping your children cope and adjust to your divorce.