How to Support Your Children Through a Divorce
As a loving parent, your natural response is to want to protect your children from any aspects of divorce that they find distressing. While your divorce is necessary — both for your own emotional wellbeing, and your childrens’ long term happiness — it can be difficult to know how best to support your kids during this initial period of upheaval.
You’ll always work hard for your children’s happiness, but there will be mistakes made along the way by both you and your spouse. However, there are some key areas on which you should be focusing to help you and your kids make the best of a difficult situation. Implementing these strategies can help to ensure that your children are well supported during your divorce, and that they have a positive outlook for their future.
Maintain Both Parental Relationships
This can be one of the most difficult aspects of any divorce, but it’s important to remember that just because your relationship with your spouse has broken down, this doesn’t mean that your kids’ connection to their parents should go the same way.
Work as much as possible to ensure that both of you spend an equal amount of time with your children. This isn’t always logistically practical, but efforts should be made to ensure that the kids have ample opportunities to maintain their bond with both father and mother. There will be times, particularly in the early days of the divorce process in which your children may wish to occasionally spend a little more time with a parent, and both the adults in the scenario should make reasonable efforts to accommodate these needs.
It’s also worth noting that technology can play an important role here, too. Encouraging children to make regular video calls via Skype or Facetime with the non-custodial parent can help them maintain a sense of normality at a difficult time — however, these calls should be made in private. Your children should feel they are able to converse with and confide in each parent without the interference of the other.
Build a Culture of Honesty
Most parents going through a divorce instinctively want to reassure their children at what can be a confusing and difficult time. There are areas in which comfort words should be provided; the divorce is not their fault, both parents still love them, and so forth. However, what isn’t helpful to your child is setting unrealistic expectations or sugar-coating the truth. During a divorce, a culture of honesty with your children is crucial.
Encourage them to ask any questions they have, and answer them truthfully but with a degree of sensitivity. There will certainly be bigger, long-term questions to which you won’t have immediate answers — such as how custody arrangements will work, and what will happen during the holidays. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them as much, but also let them know what you expect to happen, and what efforts will be made to help them on this front.
It’s worth noting that being honest does not extend to over-sharing. There may be elements of the divorce that are not suitable for children, or may detrimentally affect their opinion of the other parent. Don’t volunteer negative opinions, or conjecture either — this can serve to hurt your children, and could also have consequences on your case.
There is bound to be a rollercoaster of emotions, ideas, questions, and fears roiling around your child’s mind during a divorce. This may continue for a long time after the formal process is complete, too. It is imperative that you make it clear that your children are free to express themselves to you.
Why does this need saying? Well, it may be the case that your child is unsure whether their questions are appropriate. They will notice that you are experiencing some emotional turmoil yourself, and might be avoiding the subject in order to prevent causing you further pain. However, keeping their emotions, questions, and fear locked up inside can be damaging to their mental wellbeing.
As adults, we know just how disruptive to other aspects of our lives mental illness can be, both in the short and long term. Giving our mental health priority is a key part of ensuring that we can better handle the daily challenges and tribulations that come our way. The same goes for your children. By providing them with a clear outlet through which to express and discuss their feelings with you, you’re providing opportunities to help ease some of their mental and emotional burden.
Keep the Peace
Aside from the necessity to divorce, there may well be some bad blood between you and your spouse during the process. However, your anger and frustration at your former partner should not be witnessed nor directed toward your children.
Particularly when it comes to divorce advice for men, there is a raft of specific behaviors to avoid, and others to adopt. These not only better support your child at a rough time in their lives, but also to provide you with the best possible chance of achieving a positive outcome to your divorce and custody cases. This includes not apportioning blame for the divorce on your partner in public, and certainly not within earshot of your children. Particularly in our digital age in which your kids may have their own social media accounts, avoid posting negatively about the other parent.
You’re only human, and it’s perfectly natural to feel a sense of loss and resentment. However, bear in mind that your children may be experiencing a more profound loss, and being stuck in the middle of two warring parents will only serve to make them feel scared, unstable, and conflicted. By remaining civil with your spouse during the divorce process, you can help your children to navigate this time without additional and unnecessary strain.
Divorce is rarely a simple matter, fraught with complex emotions and arrangements. The support you give your children at this time is crucial to their continued wellbeing. Help them maintain their individual bonds with both parents, encourage them to speak openly and honestly, and engage only in a civil discourse with your spouse. This isn’t an easy time for you or your kids, but you have the power to act positively.