Even the most amicable divorces impact children. Divorcing with kids can go a variety of ways, depending on numerous factors including the child's age or the circumstances surrounding the divorce. Minimize the impact on your children through effective co-parenting and planning.
1. Focus on Them
The most important thing is to focus on your children, regardless of the difficulties between you and the other parent. Most children and teenagers prefer stability and major changes in their living and social situation can cause stress and can be confusing. Your children may not be able to verbalize the impact of their evolving circumstances at home. Make sure make to pay attention to their needs and changes in their mood and behavior, making adjustments that focus on their best interest. Family counseling is a great resource for both children and parents, providing tools and resources to cope effectively with the various life changes that inevitably accompany a divorce.
2. Keep Them Out of the Conflict
Do not put your children in the middle of the conflict. No matter what the issues are with your estranged spouse, the issues should stay between the two of you. Whenever your children are around, try not to fight; this only increases your children's stress. Do not use your kids as messengers. When you prefer not to speak directly to your spouse, send an email or text message to communicate instead. Most importantly, do not bad-mouth your spouse to your kids. They do not need additional negativity during this already difficult change. Children tend to internalize negativity causing ugly words meant for your spouse to have a negative impact on your child's self-esteem.
3. Make a Plan for Their Present
Make collaborative schedules for your children that include after-school activities, homework and at-home schedules for both you and your estranged spouse. Coordinate these schedules so that the children's schedules are consistent and stable in both homes. Homework, playtime, and bedtime should be consistent. This will help give your children a sense of normalcy, remove confusion, and assist the children through this difficult transition.
4. Make a Plan for Their Future
Planning for the future plays a large role in your children's sense of stability. Lie out plans for the summer and holidays in advance, and provide a plan for college. It is important for your children to know that even though you and your ex are splitting, their future is secure. Creating a plan early will save you the stress and anxiety of initiating the conversation once the events get closer.
5. Be Supportive
Your children will be feeling a range of emotions during this time. It is important to ask them how they’re doing and let them talk to you about whatever they’re feeling. Giving your kids the emotional support they will need to help them process the changes in the family dynamic.
6. Work With Your Ex, Not Against
When you have children, it is important to be cooperative with your ex and put your children's needs first. Whatever issues you may have with him/her need to be kept aside in order to provide for your children. Be communicative and co-parent. Try to create a parenting plan that provides for frequent and continuing contact between the children and both parents.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is to pay attention to your children and spend as much quality time with them as possible. It is easy to get caught up in the divorce proceedings, but your children should always know you are there for them and are concerned for their well-being and stability.