When you feel like going into battle with your children's other parent, focus on your children’s well-being instead. Divorce is the breakdown of the relationship between two adults; however, the fallout can greatly affect your little ones. An amicable divorce means that your children go back and forth between two happier homes. A contentious one can turn into war with the youngsters getting caught in the crossfire.
Divorce triggers anger and hurt feelings. Express these emotions to your friends and/or your therapist – not to your children. Another way to keep kids out of your divorce drama is for you and your ex to agree on a similar mantra. Each parent says something along these lines: “Your mother/father and I will no longer be marital partners, but we will always be co-parents” or “Divorce is between Mummy and Daddy. We still love you, and we'll love you forever.” No mention of cheating or other ways your spouse contributed to your marital breakdown: just a clear, simple message given by both parents.
Children want to be reassured that both of you will still be in the picture after divorce. They should not fear abandonment or feel that they have to choose sides. Let them know that a change in living arrangements will be happening. Even if one parent moves out of town, reassure your children that there will be frequent contact, and specified parenting time with their other parent will be arranged. When both you and your former spouse live in the same city, you can arrange regular Skype and phone calls when the kids are with your co-parent.
Fear of the unknown can be frightening. Kids have vivid imaginations and can envision a worst-case scenario; they might dream up something that would never happen. They require reassurance that their lives will continue as before in many areas. Have a discussion with the children about their concerns, such as whether or not they will remain in the same school and where their pet(s) will live. Discuss which of their sports and other after-school activities they want to continue – they might be relieved to drop rugby or music lessons, for instance – and let your children know that they'll still have their friends. Help kids to stay in touch with grandparents and relatives from both sides. This constancy in their lives will enable them to get through this crazy divorce period. Have them carry on with activities they enjoy, such as helping Grandpa in the garden or baking cookies with Grandma.
Take a look at your own situation. Are you saying anything bad about the other parent – or saying something good sarcastically or while rolling your eyes? Are you going into details regarding the divorce? It may be tempting to use adult offspring as confidantes or as a go-between; that puts them into an impossible situation and is detrimental to their emotional well-being. Vent to friends or have a session with a professional. Adult sons and daughters need to be kept out of your divorce drama just like the school-aged ones.
Don't be so focused on your divorce that it interferes with your relationships with others – including your children. Talk about other topics. Do fun activities that help to relieve stress and divert attention away from divorce drama. I was allowed to take my sons on a cruise during the worst part of my divorce. We explored new lands, met interesting people, and came back refreshed. That trip was the best tonic to put life into perspective, and my sons benefited from having a more grounded and relaxed mother. If you're feeling overwhelmed and thinking non-stop about your divorce, consider taking a break. Even a weekend away can do wonders for you and the children.
Children pick up on our moods and tend to copy us. During my divorce, I chose to look for the positives in life and to have some laughs. My boys decided to choose that, too. Parenting during divorce is a balance between giving just enough information so that children feel secure and not too much that they are drawn into a battle.