No one enters a marriage expecting or even considering it may eventually end in divorce. The process of divorce is one of the most difficult things a couple or family can experience in their lifetime. Like most significant changes in life, the end of a marriage typically unleashes a flood of emotions, including anger, resentment, grief, anxiety, and fear.
There is no one way to respond to the end of a marriage or a one-size-fits-all approach to managing feelings associated with the end of a marriage. However, remaining kind and cognizant of the feelings of all parties involved can make the transition smoother, especially when there are children involved. Typically, when we think of divorce, it usually is not associated with smooth, but rather chaotic and frustrating. Notably, smooth divorces are quite rare in the court system, but they are possible. It just takes appropriate planning, commitment, and compassion to ensure it does not become contentious.
Here are five helpful tips to make your divorce transition more effective:
1. Put Your Kids First
Do not forget that divorce affects children just as much as it does adults. However, depending upon the age of the child, they may not be able to express their feelings in a manner that is understood or appropriate. Remember to check in with children to ensure they understand that although living arrangements may change, the love of both parents remain. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure a child’s feelings are validated, that he or she still matters.
2. Avoid Spilling All the Details to Your Children
Contrary to belief, children do not need to know specific reasons why their parents are divorcing. Sometimes when we are hurt, we want to tell someone, share our pain; however, that pain should not be shared with children. One of the purest things in life is the love of a parent to a child and that of a child to a parent, so being told by one parent the other has cheated or “no longer wants to be family” is not just unhelpful but damaging to a child. Reasons given to children regarding the end of a marriage should be brief and in a language appropriate to the child’s age.
3. Explore Divorce Mediation
The process of divorce can be extremely challenging and frustrating, making it difficult for divorcing spouses to agree on anything. Divorce mediation can give divorcing spouses an opportunity to openly discuss their feeling in a non-threatening environment. The purpose of divorce mediation is to provide a method by which people can agree on an amicable resolution of all issues which arise out of separation and divorce. In mediation, the couple, with the help of the mediator, works out agreements on issues such as: distribution of property (Assets/Liabilities), child custody and parenting time, child support/maintenance, retirement, and taxes.
4. Sign Up for Family Counseling
Family counseling can be used to allow children to process feelings associated with their parents’ divorce. When children have an idea of what to expect, the likelihood of anxiety, confusion, fear, and frustration building is reduced. Children, unlike adults, are more likely to convey their emotions through behaviors rather than verbal language; therefore, it is important for them to have a platform to discuss and explore their feelings.
5. Start Planning a New Future
Build new traditions and another way of communicating with your ex. By planning and carving out a new future, you avoid ruminating on the past, i.e., what went wrong in your marriage, why it ended, who is to blame, etc. By fixating on the reasons leading to the divorce, you become stagnate in a time that cannot be changed and prevent yourself from moving forward. Often during the process of divorce, the interaction between divorcing spouses can be combative and hostile. Therefore, once a divorce has been finalized, former spouses should create new and healthier ways of engaging with each other for the sake of the children and themselves.
There are several reasons former spouses should behave respectfully and compassionately after a divorce, but none more important than ensuring children do not feel one parent hates or dislikes the other parent. Children learn how to love, appreciate love, and negotiate challenges by watching those closest to them. If parents speak with each other in a hostile tone or manner, children will think this is an acceptable way of expressing frustration. However, if parents are thoughtful and considerate of each other’s and those around them, then children are more likely to mimic this behavior rather than engage negatively.