Children are more intuitive than we give them credit. Divorce takes a toll on every member of the family, but it’s essential to make sure the children understand that the end of your marriage is not the end of the parent-child relationship.
Have an Open Discussion
Before sitting down with your child to announce the divorce, make a plan with your ex. Let the kids know what is going on with an open discussion as a family. This isn’t always easy when two parents are struggling to communicate, but the children will be comforted by having the family unit together.
In cases where both parents can’t be present, parents should discuss what and how to tell the children ahead of time. When one parent is being questioned apart from the other, it’s extremely important to avoid making any damaging or disparaging remarks about the other parent.
Make it clear that instead of one household, there will be two. Address any concerns the children may have and express that a divorce does not end your child’s relationship with either parent. Avoid over-explaining and don’t share personal details surrounding the divorce. Let the kids lead the conversation and provide age-appropriate answers.
Another important message for kids to understand is that the divorce is in no way their fault. Children who don’t understand what’s happening may blame themselves. To avoid this, make sure to reinforce that the divorce is taking place because of differences between the parents.
Maintain a Stable Home Environment
Through the divorce process, children will adjust more quickly when they are in a stable environment. Keep in mind that the child has to go through changes in their own way, but as a parent, do what you can to help them feel safe.
To minimize stress, try to maintain your lifestyle close to what it was prior to the divorce. Just like adults, children have a support network. When divorce results in moving, they may lose support from friends and familiarity. When such changes are necessary, try to provide adequate notice to help them adjust. Keep in mind the more comfortable parents are with changes, the more secure children will feel.
Give children time to adjust to new routines, schedules, and living situations. Be mindful that children will adapt differently. Allow them to do so in their own time and way while being a positive role model.
With careful planning and co-parenting efforts, parents can make the transition smooth for children. Maintaining consistency with structure and routine is essential. Every effort should be made to maintain the same structure and routine in both homes. This means bedtimes, homework schedules, discipline, etc.
Rules and expectations should also remain the same among households. Children can be confused when one parent allows a particular behavior, but the other doesn’t. Maintaining expectations and consequences will help provide children with security in both homes.
If possible, avoid moving outside of the child’s school district. With so many changes happening at home, having to change schools and leave friends can be traumatic.
Finally, reassure children that relationships with extended family members still matter. Be sure to nurture, nourish, and facilitate ongoing relationships to help provide normalcy and security.
We understand divorce impacts everyone in the family. We’re here to help you facilitate change through the legal process and with the interests of your children in mind. Please contact our office if you have questions about protecting your children through your divorce.