When parents divorce, it can be very hard on the children. However, there are steps that parents can take to lessen the emotional impact on their children. Here are 18 tips to help make divorce easier for your children.
- Hear what your children have to say.
- To the best of your ability, explain to your children the reasons why you and your spouse are splitting. It is wise to gather the whole family together and break the news to them while you are gathered as a family.
- Don’t try to be something you are not. If you are the mom, then be there for the children as their mom. If you are their dad, then be their dad. Don’t try to play both roles successfully.
- Make sure that your children understand that the reason you are divorcing is not because they did anything wrong.
- Never have your child deliver messages from one parent to the other. For example, you should never have the dad say “tell your mom that she is late with her half of the childcare fees.”
- Never disagree in front of your children. The less negative communication the children see between the parents the better. It’s very hurtful for children to see their mom and dad fighting about something.
- Keep as much routine as possible. With the flurry of changes in your children’s lives, the most you can keep familiar for them, the better. Keeping their schedules, school, and activities the same with help them to adjust more effectively.
- Ensure similar rules at both households. Having the same bedtime, chores, and behaviors expected at mom and dad’s house makes the transition easier for the children. They know what to expect and how to behave at both homes.
- Never use your child to punish your spouse. Don’t deprive your ex-spouse of time with their child as a form of revenge. It’s hurtful to restrict the children access to their other parent. They love both their parents and want to see them both. Don’t make the child pay for the adult’s actions.
- Allow the children their privacy about time with the other parent. Don’t grill your child about what they did while spending time with mom or dad. If they want to share then listen. If they don’t, then do not push them to do so.
- Let the children stay neutral. It’s not fair to ask the children to choose sides. They love both their parents equally and do not wish to favor one over the other.
- Refrain from putting down your ex-spouse while the children are around. When you make negative comments about the other parent, it indirectly hurts the child too.
- Allow the children to be children. Don’t make your child be your therapist, listen to your problems or have to take additional responsibilities at this time. They are hurting now too and trying to handle their own concerns.
- Ask for help if you need it. Parents may find themselves overwhelmed with emotion. Likewise, the children feel the intensity of the situation as well and may “act out”.
- Rebuild trust with the children. During this transition, the children feel like their promise from you to always love and care for them is somehow broken. Both parents need to do their best to keep the new promises they make to their children. This will help children feel more secure and regain emotional trust with their parents in this new situation. Hiring a therapist may be helpful to pull the family through this tough time.
- Believe in yourself that you can still be a great parent now that you are single. Even in tough times, you can find love to support and care for your children. Let them know you are there for them no matter what.
- Practice self-care. Get plenty of rest. Stay hydrated. Try to eat healthily. Let friends and family be there for you in your time of need. If parents don’t take time to fill their own cup, they won’t have enough to share with their children.
- Keep ties with the children family and friends strong. The more the children can stay connected to their support group the better they will feel. Let the children have time with both sets of grandparents. Schedule playdates. And make sure the children have their comforting special toys with them during this time of need.
Brian James is an experienced divorce and family mediator with offices throughout Chicagoland and Southeastern Wisconsin. He runs a mediation practice, C.E.L. and Associates where his approach to mediation is client-driven.