Divorces involving children can be very hard to prepare for as a parent. Navigating oneself through the divorce process is generally hard enough without the additional burden of also guiding children through the process as well. That being said, parents often struggle to find the right balance between keeping their children out of the divorce process, while also being honest and up front with their children about the divorce and how it will affect the children personally. While every situation varies considerably from divorce to divorce, there are a few things parents can do to make sure their children experience as little disorder and confusion as possible.
Despite many divorces being contested, parents should always be mindful that their children have nothing to do with the problems of their marriage. One of the worst things a parent can do is try to put a child in the middle of the divorce by either asking them to pick sides, by discussing details about ongoing Court proceedings, or by demeaning the other parent to, or in front of, the child. Children can often believe that the reason their parents are getting a divorce is because of something that they did themselves. Trying to sway a child to pick a side during the divorce can actually reinforce a child’s belief that they are the original cause of the problem. On top of this, some children believe it is their responsibility to bring their parents back together, and attempting to cause a rift between a child and an ex spouse may only exacerbate the pressure a child may feel to fix the marriage.
Parents can reduce the stress a divorce causes on a child by specifically discussing how the divorce will, and will not, affect the child personally. However, keep in mind that parents also need to establish a clear line between their children and the legal side of the divorce. Children do not in any way need to be aware of what is going on in the courtroom. Divorces are stressful enough for children without the additional stress of including them in the litigation side of the divorce.
Cooperation is extremely beneficial for children of divorces. While cooperation can often be difficult for soon-to-be ex spouses, children react best when their parents work together—at least in regards to the parenting aspects—during the divorce. Children, especially younger children, can become concerned that a divorce means that they’ll somehow lose a parent in the process. This fact can create significant stress on a child when their parents don’t get along, but one of the easiest ways to combat this problem is to simply encourage the child to enjoy the time they spend with the other parent. The transition to splitting time between two households can be very confusing for children at first; however, it is important to remember that this will become the child’s new “normal.” Encouraging a child to be happy when they leave to go to the other spouse’s household can help reduce a child’s feelings of instability as they transition to a completely new home environment.
As with any discussion involving children, discretion is immensely important. Divorce is never easy on children, and what is appropriate in terms of discussion topics can vary widely from child to child. Parents necessarily need to be mindful of their children’s needs, and if at all possible, parents should cooperate with each other to decide which topics are, or are not, appropriate to discuss with their children. Doing so can work wonders for children who are struggling to find where they fit in to the divorce process by, at the very least, making it clear that the love they receive from each parent will not diminish as a result of the divorce.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing and is currently writing for David J. Crouse & Associates. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.