Divorce is never easy for anyone. However, in a divorce with kids involved, matters become even more complicated. Kids often have a hard time understanding the separation, and may struggle with confusion, sadness, and even anger. You and your ex-spouse can do plenty to minimize the load on your kids’ shoulders, however. What follows are 17 tips that will help you get them through this tumultuous time with their emotional well-being intact.
1. Stay Positive.
It’s safe to assume both parties in any divorce proceeding will experience a fair amount of negative feelings. Hurt, anger, blame – they’re all par for the course when a long-term relationship doesn’t work out.
But your children shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of that pain. They shouldn’t be your confidants about your struggles and they shouldn’t be treated like your adult friends. They’re just kids. They’ll have plenty of issues of their own to work through without having to take yours on, too.
Save your blame and your rants (especially the rants) for the appropriate audience outside the home.
2. Make Your Home a Safe Sanctuary.
It’s easy for kids to feel like they’ve betrayed you by spending time with your ex. Head that suspicion off at the pass.
When your kids come to your house, don’t let them feel “tainted” by their other parent in your eyes. Welcome them into a warm, happy home, free from bitterness and strife.
Being neutral is not good enough. Be enthusiastically welcoming, interested, and supportive. Go the extra mile to send the right message – that when they come home they are in a safe place where they are loved regardless of their parents’ decision to part ways.
3. Don’t Communicate Through the Kids During a Divorce.
No one wants to talk to his or her ex. We get it. We do. However, using your kids as messengers to avoid those awkward conversations isn’t the way to go.
You won’t be doing your kids (or yourself) any favors by using them as go-betweens. If you have something to tell your ex, you can communicate with them directly or through your lawyer.
4. Don’t Bad Mouth Your Ex-Spouse in Front of the Kids.
There are probably some unkind things you could say about your ex-spouse. If you have to say those things, don’t say them in front of your kids. They shouldn’t have to listen to one parent badmouth the other.
Be kind around your children. If you don’t have anything nice to say about your ex, then don’t say anything about them at all.
5. Don’t Burden Your Kids with Adult Problems During the Divorce.
Kids can’t carry the heavy things grownups can. There are a lot of subjects and problems they aren’t prepared to tackle yet.
Letting even a hint of adult concerns slip could mean turmoil for a little one (or maybe a not-so-little one). It can lead to angst, sleepless nights, and undue stress for their young hearts.
Your children don’t need that, and neither do you.
Every divorce is brimming with adult problems. Let the adults worry about them and leave your kids in blissful oblivion.
6. Don’t Gossip.
Will Rogers said, “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.” That being said, avoid the temptation of gossiping around your children.
Going through a divorce with kids involved means you need to fight the urge to gossip about your ex. Your kids don’t need to know any dirty little secrets about their other parent. Just skip that whole mess to yourself and don’t share the sordid details with your children.
7. Have a Good Attitude.
Your mood has a significant impact on your kids. Yeah, you know that already, but you’re probably still underestimating the full effect.
Laugh and smile when you’d rather brood or cry. Show a zest for life even if you don’t feel it. That may be asking a lot sometimes but do your best.
Plenty of employees must grin and bear it every day even when they’d rather scream at troublesome customers. If they can manage it for total strangers, you can handle it for your flesh and blood.
Your kids need it.
8. Avoid Moving the Kids (if Possible.)
A stable residence and quiet school life can do a world of good for helping kids get through a divorce.
Yes, you might want to scrub your life clean and start over on the opposite coast. Just keep in mind that this is a time when your kids’ needs should come first.
In some instances, you may not have a choice. If not, try to keep sleepovers going and arrange play dates with their closest friends. Create opportunities for them to form new friendships, too, and encourage healthy social activity.
9. Implement a Parenting Plan
We understand you probably don’t want to communicate with your ex very much. However, whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to share the responsibility of parenting. That means coordinating with your former spouse.
Work with your ex to find common ground on how best to raise your kids. It’s good for you, your ex – and most importantly, your kids. It will also make your divorce proceeding smoother.
10. Don’t Make Your Kids Pick Sides
Your kids don’t want to take sides. What’s more, they don’t need to take sides, and you shouldn’t expect them to.
Scratch that; you should make efforts to stop them.
Let your kids stay neutral. They’ll want to love and respect both of their parents, and it’s best for everyone involved that they do.
11. Don’t Make Your Kids Keep Secrets
You don’t want to remind your kids of the consequences of your divorce any more than you must. By telling your kids to hide things from your ex, you’re drawing attention to the family divide.
You want to present a picture of a unified parental front (even if the hidden reality is another matter).
12. Don’t Use the Kids as Pawns
There will probably be times when you’re mad at your former spouse. It can be tempting to try to get back at them by hogging the kids.
Don’t do that.
Your kids aren’t pawns between you and your ex. They love both of their parents, and they need to spend time with each. Let them.
13. Stay Involved
Keeping your ex in your life may not be what you want, but it is what’s best. Your kids do need frequent and ongoing contact with both parents.
Being involved means plenty of time with the kids and a shared hand in raising them.
14. Reassure and Support Your Children
Kids are prone to self-doubt. A divorce with kids is a breeding ground for confusion, fear, and blame.
Make sure your kids understand that the divorce isn’t their fault. They didn’t cause it, they aren’t making it worse, and they can’t change it.
Remember: kids are good at hiding their feelings. Don’t just assume you know what they’re thinking. Ask them. Talk to them.
They’re worth it.
15. Don’t Bribe Your Kids
Don’t try to become “fun parent” or favorite parent by attempting to buy love with money and freedom. Your kids should love and respect you because you’re a stable, affectionate parent.
Catering to their every whim is a way to earn some quick “cool parent” points, sure. So is showering them with every toy or tech gadget they could want.
Saying yes to every request is a good way to create an entitled mentality and cause big problems in the future. However, by being a responsible, caring adult, you’ll form stronger, healthier relationships with your kids in the long run.
Give your kids a good, safe, happy, secure, disciplined life. Work with your ex-spouse to make that happen.
16. Let Your Kids be Kids
Sometimes, the best solution to a child’s problems is childhood itself.
Through the divorce and beyond, don’t stop your kids from being kids. Maintain their play dates and other activities. Schedule new ones.
Distractions will help keep their minds off any sadness or doubt.
17. Put the Kids First
Putting your kids first in your life is the kind of tip you’d think would go without saying. The truth is, though, it does need to be said and often.
We don’t doubt your heart is in the right place. You do love your kids. However, in the confusion and heartache of a divorce with kids involved, it’s easy for them to slip to the back burner.
Keep a close eye on them. Focus on how they adapt and adjust to the new structure. Ideally, you want them to think of themselves as one family spread out under two roofs.
Divorce With Kids – In Summary
There’s no easy way to go through a divorce – not for you, and not for your kids. However, these tips should help minimize potential problems and keep the process as smooth as possible.
If you are contemplating a divorce, give us a call at (281) 210-0057.