“Children ought not to be victims of the choices adults make for them”Wade Horn
When you commit to love and cherish, till death do you part, sometimes even the best of intentions don’t turn out as you plan. If you and your spouse have made the decision that you would be better off apart than together, it is never an easy one to make. Divorce is difficult, even in situations where dividing lives involves just living arrangements and assets. But when there are children involved, there are so many more decisions, emotions, and repercussions to consider.
The good news is if you handle it maturely, putting the needs of your children as a priority, you all will come out stronger, happier, and healthier on the other end. If you follow these 6 tips, not only will things go more smoothly, the healing will begin, and you can all move forward together.
1. Give Each Parent Equal Time
One of the hardest parts about divorcing, as a parent, is the realization that you will have to lose time with your child while they are at the other parent’s home. But it is selfish to limit your child’s time with the other parent. Children need the love and support of both parents. And although you don’t want to miss out on time with them, it is necessary to allow your child the time to continue a relationship with both parents.
If possible, try to divide the time up evenly on a schedule that is good for both of you and your child as well. When possible, limit the back and forth, or your child missing out on activities or things they used to do. Having a set schedule will make it both logistically and emotionally easier on your child. Although you might have less time than you used to with your child, you can make the time that you do have targeted and meaningful.
So focus on the moments you spend together instead of the time you will spend apart. They are feeling just as torn as you are. And it is your job to make it okay for them, whatever way you can. Don’t ever use the other parent’s time as a tool to spite your ex. When your child misses out on time and having a relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the only one that loses is them.
2. Don’t Fight in Front of Your Child
The only thing that will make a divorce situation seem beneficial to your child is if the fighting and animosity stop. That is the intention of divorce, that two people go their separate way and stop hurting one another. Obviously, since you share children, you will still have to have some semblance of a relationship. But the way that your new relationship must look is calm, peaceful, and as cooperative as possible.
The most significant positive takeaway that your children will benefit from your divorce is that the two of you no longer fight and the tension of your relationship is no longer oppressive to them. If you have to argue, make sure that it is never in front of your child. And don’t fight when picking up or dropping off.
That transition is going to be tough enough for them for years to come. As important as it is for you to let go of anger to begin healing, it is even more crucial for you to do so, so that your child can begin to heal too. You don’t have to be best friends, but for the well being of your child, you do have to be amicable in your communication with one another.
3. Don’t Disparage the Other Parent
You had reasons that you could no longer live as husband and wife, but your child’s relationship with both parents should not be affected. However, it will become strained if you disparage your ex in front of your children. You want your children to adore and love you, and your spouse wants the same.
When you talk about the details of what your soon-to-be-ex did in front of your children, whether you realize it or not, you are tainting the way that they see their other parent. Children shouldn’t have to take sides or be put in the middle. And when you talk ill of your ex, your child’s natural love for you, makes them want to defend you.
Children should look up to and respect both parents, and if you talk badly about your ex, that is going to change the way that your child sees them. And that isn’t fair. You probably did things in the relationship that you aren’t proud of too, and you wouldn’t want your ex to disparage you either. Make a pact to be kind and not cut each other down, but instead, treat each other respectfully both in person and when the other is not around.
4. Discuss Dating Before you do
Even if you are ready to move along and learn to love again, that doesn’t mean that your child is prepared for someone else to enter their life. If the sting of the divorce is still fresh in your child’s heart, which it will be for quite a while, introducing a new love interest is not in your child’s best interest.
It is difficult, as a divorced parent, to know that there is the potential that your ex might find someone new. Not only might there be hurt involved in your partner moving on for you, but there will also be for your child too. Most children hold onto the wish that their parents will reunite and you will be one happy family again. Before you bring anyone new into the picture, make sure that you have discussed the best way to handle it with your spouse.
It not fair to not to let your ex know and find out from your child, nor is that a healthy way to spring it on your child, unexpectedly. Even if it is uncomfortable, it is important to talk openly with your ex about bringing new people into the family and how best to do so, so that you can watch for signs of hurt in your child and help to calm their anxiety and fears when they do arise, as a team.
5. Seek Counseling Before you Spot Signs of Trouble
Divorce is a very difficult thing for children. Sometimes they will need a little help discussing how they feel. There are times when they might see that you are hurting and not want to make it worse for you by discussing their own sadness. Even if you think they are doing alright, it is always a good idea to have them talk to a counselor just in case.
Children are highly resistant, yes. But that doesn’t mean that things in their past won’t affect their future. And you don’t want to take the risk that they are dealing with confusion, hurt, and fear that they are not working through. Just because they say they are alright, that doesn’t make it so. It is also a good idea to let those in your child’s life like teachers and administrators at school know about what is going on at home, so they can watch for signs of depression and anxiety.
Studies suggest that parental separation can put children at a higher risk of depression in adulthood and adolescence. So make sure to watch for signs and preempt any emotional turmoil that might be going on by making sure they have a support network of people who care about the. And, also a counselor who can help them work through the feelings they might not be comfortable sharing with you or your spouse.
6. Put Your Child’s Needs First
Now that you are going to be living separate lives, there are going to be times when events will get in the middle of your arranged times. Try to put your child’s needs first and be flexible if something comes up. Your child shouldn’t have to miss out on important events in their life because of your scheduled visits.
If you are open to switching visitation when something important is going on in your child’s life, they are less likely to feel excluded or different from their peers. For their emotional well being, consistency is important. But working together with your spouse to ensure that your child doesn’t feel like your divorce situation is making them miss out, is essential.
You two decided that you no longer could live together; your child did not have a say. So give them just a little control by allowing them to make decisions that are important to them without making it feel like they are choosing one parent over another when they want to reschedule things.
Things Will get Easier Once the Hurt Starts to Heal
Getting divorce sometimes seems like the only way to make things stop. And although in time you will both heal and hopefully move on to happier times, the road getting there will not be easy. Dealing with your own grief and loss over a marriage that didn’t work out is difficult enough, but when you have children; it can be overwhelming.
If you put your child first, let go of anger, and communicate with your ex with maturity, then you will get through the rough times, and hopefully a little less scathed. Remember, your child is going through similar grief, so be patient, open, and if you are honest and provide a supportive atmosphere where they can talk freely, or have someone to talk to, kids are resilient.