If you’re going through a divorce with children in the mix, it’s probably safe to say that thoughts about your kids’ well-being is taking up just as much of your attention as the divorce itself. Even so, it can be hard to keep the spotlight on them while you’re sorting out your emotions, your affairs, and your legal responsibilities. What are some of the best ways to help your children cope with the divorce process? For starters, offer them a peaceful and predictable environment—and keep these tips in mind.
1. Tell the Truth
Your divorce may come as a shock to your children, and they’re likely to have plenty of questions. Make sure you answer as honestly as possible, within reason. Keep your responses age-appropriate while respecting their concerns. Younger children tend to prefer more generalized statements, while older children and teens might appreciate more detail.
2. Act Natural
The best way to normalize your child’s experience with divorce is to act like everything is, well, normal. Keep your emotions in check when you talk about the divorce, or when you leave your children to visit the other parent. Experts have used similar advice about dropping off your kids at daycare: if you act like you’re abandoning them, your children will feel as though they’re being abandoned.
3. Never Fight in Front of the Kids
While an amicable divorce is ideal, it isn’t always possible. That said, your relationship with your ex-spouse doesn’t have to be a choice between a best friend and a worst enemy. Fighting is known to have a poor effect on your kids’ ability to adjust. Do your best to keep things civil when you’re together. When you’re apart, it’s also important not to badmouth your ex in front of the kids. It may lead them down a road of uncertainty, causing them to mistrust both of you.
4. Acknowledge Their Feelings
It can be difficult to persuade your kids to talk about their feelings, but when they finally open up, don’t shoot them down. An offer of comfort and support is preferable to a line like, “Everything will be fine,” which can sound dismissive or uncaring. They should always feel safe to express themselves around you. With an open line of communication to you, your kids will feel empowered knowing there is an outlet for their frustrations and fears.
5. Compromise with Your Ex
Routine and consistency are crucial to developing children, especially during a difficult experience like divorce. With that in mind, it’s important that you cooperate with the other parent. Your parenting plan or visitation schedule should be a situation of give-and-take, not a tug-of-war. Put your personal feelings aside and be flexible. If something isn’t working out, or one of you is having trouble keeping a commitment, lightly suggest an alternative that works for both of you.
6. Try an Alternate Support System
Your kids may appreciate having someone else to talk to about their experiences. You could try to find a therapist who has experience helping children with divorce. If that option isn’t available to you, you might ask a friend or relative to spend some time with them, or find some children’s books about divorce. You might also seek therapy or support for yourself—after all, you’ll be better equipped to help your kids when you’re in a sound state of mind.
Believe it or not, the right family lawyer can be a great source of support during your divorce. The attorneys at Bedlam Law are always happy to walk you through the intricacies of divorce law while protecting your best interests—including your kids’ best interests. Give us a call to have a dedicated advocate by your side throughout the process.