If handled poorly, a divorce will affect children negatively. How long the negative effects will last and how deep the children’s emotional trauma will go depends on the level of conflict between the parents, and how committed they are to putting their children first.
If you are separating from your spouse or life partner and are worried about how your breakup could impact your kids, here are five tips to help reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children.
1. Make a Plan to Tell Your Children about the Divorce
If your decision to divorce is final and irrevocable, plan to explain this to your children clearly – without blaming their other parent. Who should talk about the impending divorce: Mother or Father? If possible, speak to your kids together to ensure you’re giving them the same message:
- mum and dad are getting a divorce,
- it is not the children’s fault in any way,
- it’s okay to be sad,
- both parents will love the children forever,
- there is no chance that mum and dad will get back together.
2. Don’t Fight in Front of Your Kids
When a marriage disintegrates, it can be difficult to restrain emotions. Insults, disappointments, or betrayals are still fresh, and these feelings can be superimposed on unresolved relationship problems. In the heat of the moment, you may hurl accusations you know to be false just to hurt each other; after years of marriage, you know each other’s emotional triggers and insecurities well enough to hit where it will hurt the most. When your children witness these quarrels, it greatly increase their sense that their collapsing family is turning into a complete catastrophe – which causes anxiety, fear, and depression.
To reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children, work out your emotional issues with a therapist and your legal issues with a lawyer or mediator – and don’t fight when your kids are around!
3. Take Care of Your Kids
The relationship between you and your life partner may be over, but you will both be parents forever. You need to create a new co-parenting relationship with each other that prioritizes your children’s emotional and physical needs. Even if you’re not the primary custodial parent, it doesn’t mean that your responsibilities towards your kids have ended. Quite the opposite! Studies have shown that children do better if they have ample access to both parents after divorce.
In terms of child support, pay it on time if you’re the payor, and use it to take care of your children if you’re the recipient. If you are a well-to-do person, you can continue your financial assistance until your child has a stable career.
Establishing a good co-parenting relationship, encouraging the children’s relationship with their other parent, and behaving with integrity regarding child support will earn your children’s respect and reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children.
4. Don’t Reveal the Cost of Divorce to Kids
Divorce can be very costly in terms of time, money, and emotions. When a person files a divorce case in the court, it involves lots of time in case preparation, negotiation of financial and custody issues, the division of property, and the court proceeding if you are unable to reach agreement outside of court. Fighting over every issue in court exponentially increases the overall cost of divorce. After the divorce, parents should not reveal how much their bitter dispute cost the family. Especially if that number is very high, you stand to lose your children’s respect for your inability to resolve your dispute without jeopardizing your family’s future.
5. Wait to Introduce Your New Romantic Interest to Your Kids
Make sure that your new relationship is serious and has staying power before introducing a new romantic partner to your children. They’ve just experienced the trauma of their parents’ divorce – they don’t need to live through another breakup shortly thereafter.
When you start dating and ultimately meet a new partner after divorce, you must be very careful to balance your own needs for adult companionship with your children’s need for an attentive parent. Be aware that your new partner may not love your children the way you do, and he/she may even resent the time and attention you give your kids – and your kids may feel just as resentful towards your new partner.
If your new partner has their own kids, both sets of children now have to deal with potential stepbrothers and stepsisters in addition to a stepparent. If you don’t rush your kids into new step-relationships after your divorce, they will eventually come to accept their new situation as a divorced family. They can even become quite comfortable moving between mum’s house and dad’s house as long as they don’t suffer emotional or physical threats from a new partner in one of those houses.
So take it slow; to reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children, wait for several months before introducing your kids to you new love interest.
The divorce between parents can create several problems for kids. By following these five tips, you can help to reduce the negative effects of divorce on your children and prove that both you and your ex can be good parents despite living separately.
Sophie Rickson has worked as a content writer for the Michael Birch Australian Legal Practitioner law firm, based in Sydney, Australia. Creative and passionate about her work, Sophie manages digital content to build relationships with organizations and individuals.