Going through a divorce is definitely an emotional and confusing time for both the children and adults. Unfortunately, sometimes children become bargaining chips or pawns against the other parent. Working out the details of a split can be messy, which means we can take our eye off of how our children are handling the situation, and what is in their best interest.
However, while you and your spouse may have irreconcilable differences, it doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer. In fact, you should be putting special focus on them, as it’s likely just as traumatic for them as it is for you.
Here are seven things to keep in mind regarding your children during a marital split…
1. Do Not Fight In Front Of The Children
This actually goes for married parents and those going through a separation of unwed parents, but yelling at the other parent during this already emotional time can have more dire consequences for children in many cases. At no time should you ever speak badly of the other parent or yell at the other parent.
Divorce itself is not what causes children pain, it’s watching their parents battle openly. This can heighten anxiety and stress in children, and even cause fear if their parents are always at each other’s throats. Children can pick up on the tension about the other parent. It truly is your duty to shield them from this tension and encourage the other parent to do the same.
2. Remind Your Child It’s Not Their Fault
Many children, especially if they’re older and understand what’s happening, may automatically think they are the cause of the split. However, it’s important to take to the time to explain they’re not the cause of the turmoil and that they’re loved by you and their other parent.
Failing to show love for your child during this time can seriously affect their self-esteem. The act of telling your children they’re loved needs to be done more than once – it should be a regular reassurance. Take the time to be with your children and make sure to give them that one on one attention.
3. Do Not Talk Badly About The Other Parent
In some cases, divorcing parents like to use their kids as weapons against each other by saying negative things about their former spouse to them. Those statements could include that the other half doesn’t care about them, or doesn’t work hard enough for them, which kids can take very personally. When you speak badly about the other parent, you are speaking badly about your children. After all, they are made up of one half of the other parent.
If you have a beef to clear up with your former spouse, do it in person or over the phone in a rational manner – don’t give your children negative messages that they will ask the other parent about. This is not a healthy way to teach children about conflict resolution, and it will ultimately erode a child’s sense of self-worth. Your job right now is to lead by example and teach these healthy coping mechanisms and communication through conflict.
4. Try To Limit Change To Your Children’s Routines
If you’re finding that a living arrangement will be changing drastically due to a divorce, which takes one or both parents out of the family home, try to ease this transition. This may take some creativity so try to plan it so the child can remain in the same school and see the same friends if possible.
Trying to figure out new school or childcare arrangements can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to figure out other elements of the divorce such as financial details. Your child may love their surroundings and have made friends, and taking them out of that environment unnecessarily could cause some resentment. Find the good and positive aspects of your “new normal”. Allow children to have moments of being upset or disappointed remind them it is okay to feel that way.
5. Let Your Children Express Their Emotions
You may be in “damage control” mode and are trying to sugarcoat the situation, but you also have to accept that kids will likely have reactions you might not like. Don’t discount your child’s anger or confusion; your focus should be allowing them to ask questions and seeking affection.
You should allow them to vent a little and expect to answer a variety of questions regarding the situation. One approach is to ask your child if there’s anything they’d like to do or talk about that would make them feel better, notes the source. It also says that not all kids react right away, so be prepared a few weeks or even months down the road to weather a storm. In many of these circumstances having the children participate in counseling can helpful.
6. Look Forward To Your Time With Your Children
If a custody agreement is already in place, then you should plan to make the most of your time with your kids – whether that’s 1-day a week or 4-days. You love your kids and likely put some effort into arranging the agreement to have them, so show them they’re important. Even if your time is limited, make the best of it and don’t let your circumstances ruin your relationship you have with your children.
A custody agreement is about the kids, not you. The hardest part for co-parenting is remembering that time with the child is not a prize to be won, but a gift to be cherished. Make the most of it, and include activities you know they’ll enjoy.
7. It’s Never Too Late To Apologize
Divorce can be emotional for children, they are surprisingly able to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions. They can bounce back with a little encouragement. If you think your behavior hasn’t been perfect lately, draw your line in the sand, and improve your behavior and reactions as soon as possible.
So while you’re not ready to say sorry to the other parent, you can tell your kids you’re sorry for any pain you’ve caused them and promise to do better. Whether it’s putting on a smile for them, avoiding talking about the other parent, or just letting them be a kid. This can be a lot tougher for older teenaged kids to accept but telling your kids you’re sorry and making them your priority can go a long way to preventing bitterness later on. Don’t forget that sometimes you’ve got to “fake it until you make it” … meaning that the more you speak positively and act positively, it will become your self falling prophecy.
Let Our Experienced Divorce Attorney Morse Help You
Call now to schedule a free consultation to speak with an experienced and passionate Family Law Attorney Erin Morse to help you with your legal matter. For sound advice and effective representation regarding your Florida divorce, call the Law Office of Erin Morse in Orlando at 407-900-7451.