In the United States, there are approximately 827,000 divorces every year. And in many of those instances, children are involved. As parents, it’s up to you and your former spouse to keep your children safe and remind them that they are loved throughout this whole process. Consider that you must determine child custody, parenting access times (such as holidays and vacations), and expenses associated with your children. Often, given the complicated factors associated with dividing responsibilities related to children, it can be the most difficult part of any divorce. That said, if you and your ex-spouse take the time to create a fair and amicable plan for your children, you are sure to lessen the stress associated with divorce for your entire family. Here are a few key things you need to keep in mind when you’re guiding your children through divorce.
Consider Your Children’s Schedules
When children of divorce experience this change, it is important to take the appropriate steps to keep their lives as calm and consistent as possible. For example, consider that a child whose parents are divorcing likely does not fully understand the reasons for and effects of a divorce. Thus, maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with your former spouse and your children is imperative to maintain a family dynamic that is functional long-term. Some ways to implement this include refraining from any negative talk about your former spouse.
Keep Child Care Top of Mind
One of the biggest arguments related to divorce is custody and access time with your children. Consider that elementary school age children often cannot comprehend why their parents are divorcing or how their life may be impacted by their parents’ divorce. Unfortunately, due to prevalent child access issues in divorce matters, access times are often determined in court. This requires both parties to follow a specific plan, to ensure the child’s life remains as “normal” as possible. In order to assist in the process, consider proposing a plan to your lawyer, or significant other if the situation is amicable, regarding primary care and daycare schedules. By coordinating these issues in advance, you can avoid arguments at school, or worse, in front of your children.
Maintain Healthy Lifestyles
When children of divorce experience an injury, illness, or another medical issue, it might not be handled the same way post-divorce. Consider that children of divorce often need medical care, such as routine eye exams or regular checkups, while in the care of one parent. In order to encourage the child to remain calm and strong during such a time, consider crafting a medical emergency response plan to address how your former spouse will be notified of an injury or illness. Further, it is important to note that the child may be used to having both parents present and as such, having an amicable plan to ensure the sign feels safe is critical for maintaining a healthy family dynamic.
Consider Investing in Mediation
When it comes to setting your wedding ring aside and filing for divorce, the issues at hand are innumerable. From dividing assets to determining childcare expenses and access schedules, all the way to coordinating the sale of a marital residence, there are many issues to consider. In order to protect children of divorce from a stressful situation, working to create an agreement before a neutral party may protect your family from additional pain. Investing in help from mediation services or other family consulting services can be a great tool in helping your family through this difficult time.
Maintain an Amicable Relationship with Your Former Partner
As your children grow older, the events and activities they participate in will only increase. Consider, that children often have numerous extracurricular and school-related activities. Additionally, there are numerous popular holidays that people hesitate to split like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween. Lastly, your child’s birthday is a big deal, and sharing access on this day can be stressful. Considering these events, all signs point to you and your former significant other finding a way to effectively co-parent in front of your child. This may require hosting an event together, such as your child’s birthday. It is important that you put in the work to make this possible, as your children are the most important — and also most impressionable — people in a divorce.
Be Gentle Through the Moving Process
In addition to the above-referenced changes and issues related to divorce, one that people often forget is the physical living space for families and children of divorce. It is important to note that when a couple divorces, a decision needs to be made regarding their marital residence. Given that two people are divorcing, each individual then becomes a single person living on one income. As a result, marital residences are often impacted which in turn affects the family structure. The most common outcome is to sell the marital residence, resulting in each individual getting their own home, with the children traveling between both parties. Further, remodeling decisions often have to be made, as each party may downsize to account for the income change. These are important things to consider, as you want to take efforts to protect your children from this stress. Remind your children that by moving you are making a life change and sometimes, change is a good thing!
Consider Whether Your Child Will be Assisted By an Attorney
First and foremost, if your child is assisted by a Guardian Ad Litem or Attorney for Children, don’t panic. The thought of your child being represented by an attorney can be overwhelming; however, the system is designed to protect their interests. Children of divorce can often feel overwhelmed by the divorce process, as they love both their parents and don’t want their family divided. That said, some parents use the child to cater to their own selfish needs, resulting in the child feeling confused and possibly leading their children on. For this reason, attorneys are assigned to children to talk to them in a calm and kid-friendly manner to ensure that the child’s voice is heard by the court. If your child(ren) was assigned an attorney, be sure to consider the advice of the attorney, as it is intended to represent the best interests of your children.
Have a Child Custody Plan
Discussing child-related issues on a custody level can be stressful. Who takes your child on Christmas? Who picks them up from school each week? Who pays for extracurricular activities? What about college savings? These are all important questions to ask yourself as children of divorce should be the main priority. In order to answer these questions, it is important that you create an agreement both parties consent to. First, it is worth noting that both parties will need to be willing and able to compromise. Second, don’t feel overwhelmed by the idea of an agreement, as each family has the ability to make their agreement as specific or broad as they want, based on the needs of their family. Lastly, consider drafting a list of issues you and your spouse have previously argued about (or anticipate arguing about) in order to create an agreement before issues arise. By following these steps and drafting a plan amicably, you can avoid unwanted arguments.
Communicate With Your Children
Divorce can get ugly, but it doesn’t have to be that way! When children feel loved and safe, a number of issues can be addressed in a healthy and non-traumatic way. That said, children need a safe space to feel they can express their concerns, feelings, and thoughts to their parents. Consider having a neutral, monthly meeting with your child and significant other to show the child that despite divorcing, you are still a family unit. Additionally, you could give your child a journal to write down questions they may have, giving you and your former significant other time to figure out how to respond to your child’s questions in an age-specific way. All in all, it is important that you take the time to consider how your decisions, actions, and divorce may impact your children long-term and take steps to prevent any long-term trauma associated with the divorce.
If you found these tips helpful, then you are on the right track to protecting your children from the difficulties associated with divorce. When it comes to divorce, there are many issues and moving parts happening simultaneously. From division of assets, custody issues, and changing family dynamics, children of divorce can feel overwhelmed. In order to protect children of divorce from these stressful situations, it is important to consider how your children may be affected by your divorce. Further, it is important to keep the above-referenced information, and summed up below, in mind as it will help you make healthy decisions now to benefit your family in the long-run. All in all, it is necessary that you take time during a divorce. You don’t want your family to feel overwhelmed by the process, as children of divorce will always be that — children of divorce. Teaching your children how to manage the process when it happens, will help maintain and promote a positive family dynamic long-term!