I know that you're worried most about your children and that you’re determined to protect them during your divorce. You know that children often feel caught in the middle when one household becomes two.
The way you and your partner behave during your divorce will be the biggest predictor of how it affects your children.
The good news is that most parents reported their divorce did not have a negative impact on their children. Unfortunately, in that 2004 study published in AARP The Magazine (The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond, Xenia P. Montenegro), almost half of parents reported that their divorce did have a negative impact on their children. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of those said their children were sad, 42% said their kids were angry and 22% said their child was devastated. That’s heartbreaking to hear.
The way you and your partner behave during your divorce will be the biggest predictor of how it affects your children. I know that you’ll do everything within your power to help your child work through the transition with as little disruption as possible.
Here are 8 reminders that will help you help your children:
Remember, your children love both of you and both of you love your children. Sure, you might show it in different ways, and you both probably think the other needs to improve. But different does not always mean wrong. Kids can thrive when raised with different parenting styles, so give each other a break. Having to write thankyou notes before they play won’t kill them and neither will pudding for breakfast. Because you’re parents, you’ll have to deal with each other on some level, not just until your youngest turns 18, but for the rest of your lives. There will be graduations, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and grandbabies. Your children will want BOTH of you to be involved in everything. And that’s why this next tip is so important.
Begin co-parenting as soon as possible. Now I know you’re tempted to say, “but Cindy, you don’t know my partner.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all and I get it. But I also know that if your child was trapped in a burning building and your partner was just sitting there doing nothing, you would still take immediate action. During your divorce, your family is in a burning building, so I know that you will act to save your children. I highly recommend that you sign up for a free service to help co-parents. There are many of them out there to choose from. My favorite is UpToParents - it's an awesome place of support and resources. They can help you do your part for your child.
Know what your children want. An interview of three children on the UpToParents website makes it painfully clear. What children want most is to spend time with BOTH of you and for the two of you to stop fighting and arguing. I know you can make that happen for them.
Be a rock for your children. A 2007 study (Counting the Cost of Divorce: What Those Who Know Better Rarely Acknowledge, David G. Schramm, PhD, FamilyinAmerica.org) noted that during divorce, parents struggle with their own feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and betrayal, and can become emotionally distant from their children. When that happens, the parents offer fewer expressions of love, affection, and appreciation for their children. You can avoid it by taking care of yourself and making it a point to display love, affection and appreciation for your kids, out loud, every day. If you can’t be there in person, you can use technology to do it. Send a text, make a call. It only takes a second and it makes such a difference for your child. It will be a boost for you too!
Notify your children’s school or teachers that a change in the family is occurring so they can pay special attention to your child and inform you of any problems. Note: this does not mean that you need to provide them with all of the gory details. Besides, one thing I’ve learned from teachers is that your child is probably telling them everything that’s going on in your house anyway.
Use technology to your advantage. There are free services to help parents in two households stay organized and on the same page. When you’re at the soccer field and your partner is at the dentist, technology can help you find a meeting point in the middle. Some apps not only find the midpoint between two locations, they also list nearby restaurants and businesses where you can meet. How awesome is that?
Obviously, this is a time of great change in your family. Stick to the kids’ routines as much as possible, while making sure they spend a lot of time with both of you. Going the extra mile here will help your kids tremendously.
Give your child a safe, parent-free zone. Find a counselor or support group for your child at your place of worship, at their school, or in the community. There are plenty of affordable resources available for you and your child.
You probably knew about all 8 of these ideas, but I hope the reminder helps you stay focused on what your kids need.
Authored by Cynthia L. Patton, Esq. This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult an attorney for specific legal advice.