February 3, 2016
Divorce is painful for all parties involved, but often the most affected are children.
While you're nursing your wounds, it's important to keep in mind, children still regard their parents as role models. While it's a painful time, it can also be a tremendous teaching opportunity for yourself and your children.
With some conscious effort from both parties, you can provide great examples for how to handle life's difficult situations with integrity and compassion.
Below are 7 important things to do for your children when you divorce.
While divorce can bring with it a lot of hurt and anger, it's important not to outwardly place blame on your ex-partner in front of your kids. It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse.
Children will always see their parents as role models, and it's important to respect the importance of that. Blame and criticism in front of your children will only cause them to feel unsafe and confused. Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.
Ensure you have a safe space with a friend or Psychologist to work through any anger and resentment you may have towards your ex partner.
It's important to keep in mind your children will experience a lot of emotions, ranging from anger, sadness, confusion, guilt, worry, sadness and more.
These emotions are natural and part of the process. Create a safe space for your children to feel and express any emotions that come up for them, and offer support and conversation when it's needed.
Try to commit to actively listening to them, without judgement or defensiveness. Prepare to answer tough questions regarding new living arrangements and how often your children will get to see each parent.
The most important thing is to reassure your children that the divorce isn't their fault.
Children often express their emotions through negative behaviour changes. Increasing instances of tantrums, fits, being difficult, having accidents or odd behaviours are all normal, it's best to be patient with them, and take any opportunities to discuss how they're feeling.
Focus on keeping communication lines open — no matter how difficult.
Children are remarkably resilient and responsive to change when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your children of your unchanging love.
A general worry for children going through divorce is that they will no longer be loved by either parent. Help them by realising this fear, and make a daily effort to show them they are safe and loved, regardless of circumstances and changes.
Just as we're instructed to first fit our own oxygen mask in case of an emergency, it's important to take care of yourself during your separation, so you can be of support to your children when you're needed.
Make sure to prioritize your own self care by having close friends or a Psychologist available to you, when you need to process through the emotions and changes that are occurring.
If you are able to be calm and emotionally present, your kids will feel more at ease.
Separations and divorces are emotionally taxing, and you may find yourself tempted to do things out of spite without thinking of the longer term ramifications.
Make sure not to use your children against your ex-spouse, even subtly. Remember, it's more important that your children feel loved and supported by both parents, than it is to make your ex suffer.
Using your children as leverage or bait to exact revenge or control is more damaging to the kids long term, than it is to either parent.
Even in the nastiest of circumstances, always keep in mind: love your children more than you hate your ex.
Clear, two way communication with your spouse is paramount when agreeing on shared care and support arrangements. Be clear and open with your spouse about your wishes, and be considerate of their wishes in response.
Be practical and write down and sign all agreements you put in place, including details about child support, holidays, visitation and more. If your children are over 13, it can be important to discuss their wishes as well to incorporate in the agreement.
Keep in mind, both parents relationships with their children are important and the agreement should nurture this. Decide whether you need an informal agreement (written and signed), or a formal legal agreement, and ensure both parties have a copy (printed and digital), for easy reference later on if disagreements occur.
In summary, keep in mind to work as a Co-parent team to ensure your children get the support they need through this difficult time, and do your emotional processing of the break-up with the support of others - friends or your Psychologist, in order to take care of both yourself and your children.
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