Helping Your Children Cope with Your Divorce
When you are going through a divorce, your children are also going through the ordeal, in their own way and through their own experiences. It will be a difficult time for your children, but there are ways you can make it easier to ensure that your divorce has as few negative impacts on your children as possible.
Whenever possible, try to work with your spouse to reassure your children that their relationship with each of you won’t be changed, even if your relationship with each other will. This can be difficult for you and your spouse, as divorce can often dredge up fresh and old hurts alike, but it will help to keep your children from feeling like their foundation has cracked beneath them. This is especially important when you first announce your divorce to your children. Ask your children about their feelings, and don’t get too caught up in the details as to why the divorce is happening. Explain enough to make them understand, but avoid the temptation to make your spouse out to be the “bad guy.”
Try to Cooperate
If you and your spouse can communicate during your separation and divorce, it is always a good idea to present a unified front when it comes to decisions or events involving your child. Don’t let your child get caught in the middle of disagreements about their schooling or visitation. If you cannot agree on an issue, have those discussions away from your children.
Advanced planning can also be helpful, especially if your children play sports or have a school event. You and your spouse are comfortable, perhaps you can cheer together from the sidelines. If not, try to coordinate where you will sit or divide your children’s upcoming activities between you and your spouse. Making these arrangements prior to the event will keep it out of your children’s sight.
Remember that you have alternatives if you and your spouse can’t seem to agree on an important issue involving your children. Sometimes it is easier to ask your divorce attorney to speak with your spouse’s attorney and let their cooler heads prevail.
Be Prepared for Questions
Your children will have questions about your divorce from the moment you announce it and well beyond. Some questions are easier to prepare for because they are the questions that nearly all children ask: “Who will I live with?” “What happens to my pets?” “Can I still see my friends?” “Where will Mommy/Daddy live?” Others will be specific to your child’s situation or their friends’ experiences.
Try to be patient as you help your children understand and reassure them as much as necessary.
Be Honest without Making Your Child Your Confidant
How you talk with your children about the divorce can make a huge impact on how they are able to cope with their parents separating. During this time, it can be tempting to avoid talking about the reality of the divorce with your child or you may attempt to sugarcoat the truth. In the alternative, some parents find themselves sharing too much with their children, particularly if their children are older.
There is no denying this is going to be a difficult time for you, but you should try to remember that there are many changes going on for your children as well, and you are the best person to explain to them what those changes will mean. Avoiding the topic or underplaying the impact the divorce will have can leave your children unprepared for the reality of their parents’ separation and separate lives.
Though honesty is the best policy, try to remember that your children should not be your confidants as you go through your divorce. Even if your children are grown, you still share your children with your spouse, and being too honest could hurt their relationship with their other parent or could alienate them from you. Find a friend who is willing to listen rather than turning to your children.
Take Care of Yourself
Lastly, during this time, don’t neglect yourself. Find a support system to help you cope so that when you are with your children, you can be there for them 100 percent.