Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful and difficult situations a family can face. This is especially true if the decision to separate was not unanimous and there is a high conflict between the parties. Children are very emotionally aware to their parents fighting and can internalize the conflict. Luckily, the research states that the vast majority of kids of divorce show no lasting negative effects on their grades or social skills, life satisfaction or self-esteem. Our mediators put together their list of the top 5 things you can do to ensure your children adjust well to divorce.
This is by far the most important thing you can do to protect your children during divorce. You should always be polite with the other parent - especially around the children. Avoid discussing controversial or hot button issues during exchange times. Even when children are too young to understand the issues they are able to pick up on body language and tone of voice. You should also deal with the other parent directly when messages or information needs to be relayed. Never make your children feel like they are the messenger and never make them deliver bad news. As well, make your best effort to only say nice things about the other parent in front of the children and ensure others do too. Your child loves both of their parents and it's unfair to make them feel guilty for this.
Children need constant love, affection and reassurance to develop their self worth. It is your role as a parent to provide this nurturing environment. In addition to emotional support children need a consistent routine, expectations, rules and discipline. This is especially important while children adjust to living in two homes and being away from each parent. If you create consistency between both homes children will feel much more at ease and less frightened of the transition.
Generally speaking, children love their mom and their dad equally and need to know that this love is reciprocal. Children should be encouraged to spend time and build a relationship with each parent. You should facilitate conversation between the other parent and your child at times that are appropriate such as before bed or if the child has exciting news to share. You should also encourage your child to tell you about their time spent with the other parent. If you become teary eyed and angry at the mention of the other parent your child will feel guilty for loving them. It's also important your children understand you will be fine when they are spending time with the other parent. They need to know you are the adult and can take care of yourself without having to feel guilty for leaving you on your own.
Even though you are no longer married, you are required to co-parent your children. It's important to relay consistent messages to the children. Parents should discuss all major decisions and once a decision is made, each parent should let the children know that the parents have made a decision together & both parents stand behind that decision.
Going through a divorce is extremely hard. You have to face parenting on your own, living on your own, living off of a single income and many more changes. Don't be afraid to be afraid. You will feel a wide range of emotions and each of them will teach you something about yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need someone to guide you on your new journey it may help to find an independent party (not your friends, not your parents, certainly not your children) that you can talk to. There is no shame in asking for help and your children will benefit from having a parent who is in touch with their own emotions.
If you are considering separation or divorce and need assistance resolving issues but do not want to know all your options, connect with Jones Divorce Mediation to set up an initial consultation. The first 30 minutes are free!