Divorce is a major shakeup in the lives of children because it doesn’t just dissolve a marriage but it also fundamentally changes the shape of our families. When you are going through a divorce, it is your job as a parent to guide your children through this period of their lives with the least amount of emotional scars and psychic wounds as possible. There is quite a bit that you can do, whether you have the cooperation of the other parent or not, to protect your children’s well-being.
Keep Communication Open
Don’t lie to your kids by giving them false hope or try to make your co-parent look bad. Be truthful but keep information age appropriate. Remember that as your children get older they may have new questions or concerns about their relationship with you and the other parent. Be sure that they know they can come to you at any time.
Give Lots of Reassurance
Remind your children that you love them, and that the other parent loves them, even if you can’t make a relationship work with your ex-spouse. Young children, especially, have a difficult time articulating their emotions. Help them by acknowledging their feelings even if they can’t name them.
Physical touch, such as giving hugs, relieves stress in children. Older children that receive regular physical contact are reportedly happier and have fewer behavioral problems. Everyone benefits from regular human contact, adults see the benefit of lowered blood pressure and better anxiety management. So be sure to show affection and hug your children.
Routines are important for children. Predictability in their day to day life helps them understand and learn about the world around them. When children have routines, they feel safer and more in control of their lives. Managing change can be difficult for children, especially when large changes are brought on them suddenly.
Whenever possible, keep routines the same. Divorce creates tremendous change. Be consistent and stick to schedules for everyone’s sake. Having a familiar routines cuts down on stress levels.
Keep Adult Problems to Yourselves
“Don’t argue in front of the children” is pretty standard advice for any family but it has to go double when it comes to divorced families. Remember your co-parent is still your child’s family and always will be. Keep the details of the divorce between you and your ex.
Aim for Cooperation
When a divorce is contentious, it can be hard to bend. Hiring a child custody lawyer can sometimes be the most civil thing to do when your co-parent is uncooperative or determined to make life difficult. Learn how to tactfully set boundaries, but at the same time, be prepared to pick your battles.
If your ex is willing, consider attending co-parenting classes or at least trying to work past feelings of betrayal or mistrust that might follow a divorce. Put in place a parenting plan that respects the child’s relationship with each of his or her parents. Consider that the children of divorce fare better when there is cooperation between parents.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Stress and anxiety can take a toll, even on children. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression, or if you think your family can benefit from talking about their feelings with a professional, don’t be afraid to seek help. Sometimes an impartial third party can give you some perspective on your situation.
Family and friends are another source of help and support. If you need someone to talk to, someone that can help with the kids, or someone to have margaritas with, family and friends might be the ones to call. Taking care of yourself will go a long way to keeping your house harmonious and your mind at ease.
In the end, remember that children are young but they are still people. Treat them with tenderness and courtesy and even the most chaotic periods of their lives can be overcome.