1. Reduce traumatic effects. Reassure your children early and often that your divorce is not their fault, that you love them and will always be there for them. Provide as much stability, security and consistency as possible. An anxious child often appreciates a consistent routine, seeing familiar people, going to regularly visited places and dependable bedtimes. Offer your children choices, whenever possible, to increase their sense of power over their lives. These can include food choices, clothing choices etc.
2. Don't expose your kids to marital conflict. Experts say the amount of conflict the child witnesses during and immediately after divorce is a critical factor for his or her adjustment. One of the greatest gifts that two parents can give their child is to communicate with each other in civil terms. Don't use your children as messengers in parental communications as in "Tell your father he's late with his child support payment".
3. Allow your children to communicate openly. It is natural for kids to feel anxious when faced with numerous changes and unknown factors in their lives. They may worry endlessly about major and minor situations in their lives. Listen patiently as they express their fears and worries, even if they repeat them over and over again. Encourage them to describe their feelings and express the sadness, fear and anger they may be experiencing. Provide comfort and reassure them that they will be loved, continued to be cared for and safe.
4. Do not criticize your spouse in front of your child or on the phone. Remember that your spouse is still your child's parent; when you criticize your spouse, whether you mean it or not, you're also criticizing your child indirectly. This damages their self-esteem.
5. Find support for yourself and your children. It takes a village. Reach out and ask for help from friends, neighbors, family members, religious support groups, teachers, school counselors and therapists. Educators should be informed when parents are separating or divorcing. They can provide valuable support during the many hours your child is in school. Free assistance is also available through Divorce Care class offered by many area churches and divorce support groups for children offered by Williamson County Schools. Experts say that it takes about two years for children to adjust to the changes from divorce.
Helping children cope with divorce is important because kids model future behavior on current experiences. Whether we like it or not, our children watch everything we do, and tend to remember for a long time. Set a good example. Refer to our website, for a list of recommended reading for children broken down by age.
Sandy Arons, MBA, CDFA™, CFDP, CDFS is the founder of Arons & Associates Divorce Planning, where they specialize in the financial and tax issues of divorce. They encourage you to take the time to understand the numbers before you sign the final divorce paperwork, educate you so you can make informed choices, and secure your future and your children's future. Don't just get a divorce. Get a smart divorce. They can be reached at (615) 376-8204