A divorce is a life-altering situation for all couples, but divorce is particularly difficult for children. Children will react differently to divorce. Some children will be bitter, and others will be sad about the loss of the life they know. These emotions often cause children to vent frustration through misbehavior and withdrawal.
As the parents, you both need to work diligently to take the extra time to address the needs of your children and take any steps necessary to help them heal. Here are some things you can do to help everyone move forward to a new reality.
Make Time a Priority
The adjustment to life after a divorce is time-consuming. This is a busy time of adjustment for everyone. With a move to a new home, changes to your daily lifestyle, and the business of a divorce in general, you can quickly get overwhelmed. Make time spent with your children a priority.
No matter how busy your day may be, spend some quality time with your children each day. Have a meal together, or go out for a quick outing after school for a snack. Talk about the day and some things your children are excited about. More than anything, let the kids know they are your main priority.
When you get the opportunity to slow down, plan some special events like a trip to a splash pad or a hike at a state park. While you are no longer with the kid’s other parent, children need to know you will be there for them and continue to do fun things, even when times are difficult.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
With a major life change, some children tend to isolate themselves. This behavior makes communication difficult. If this is the case with any of your children, take the initiative to open up the lines of communication.
Ask the children about what they feel, what their concerns are, and what they want to happen. You may find this process easier with older children because they typically have better communication capability than younger children.
One thing you should not do is constantly question the children, particularly in an interrogative way. If your child does not want to talk right then, do not force the issue. Just keep communication lines open as much as you can. Some children would rather talk to someone else instead of you or their other parent. Offer other people the child can talk to, such as a grandparent, friend, or even a counselor.
Be Civil Regarding Co-Parenting
A new parenting situation is hard to get used to at first, both for the parents and the children. Despite your custody arrangements, both parents need to civilly co-parent the children as much as possible. Both of you will disagree at times or have different ideas with regard to the rules for the kids.
Despite this, discuss your concerns with each other and talk about why you have different opinions on how the children are to be raised. The focus needs to be squarely on the children and their needs, not your feelings toward your former spouse. Should you need to have a difficult discussion, do so in a place far from the ears of your children.
Successful co-parenting means both of you come from a similar place and are on the same side when it comes to your children. This positive behavior from both of you will have a positive impact on your children and will foster a healthier relationship for everyone overall.
Let the Children Know You Want Them to Be With the Other Parent
Often, in custody matters, both parents will report that the children "don’t want to go" to the other parent. Unfortunately, they are reporting this because the children appear sad when leaving them to go to the other parent. They are not misrepresenting things. Children will often mirror the feelings that they believe the parent has in order to either appease or comfort that parent. If a parent sends the message to the children that he or she is not happy the children are going to be with the other parent, the children are going to be pick up on that and act accordingly.
Children are usually loyal to each parent. As such, it is extremely important to let your children know that you support their spending time with and having a good relationship with the other parent. You may not feel it, but you should put on a brave face and act excited for them that they are going to spend time with the other parent. In the long run, acting in this way will benefit your children’s ability to cope with the divorce.
If you are going through a divorce and have questions about custody, child support, or other aspects of the process, please contact Bunde & Roberts, P.C.