Divorce if never easy, but if you have children, the issues are complicated in a way that differs from economic issues. Spousal and child support and division of property involves mostly you and your spouse, if you have children, however, they are affected at every stage of your divorce. And how you deal with your children from the very start of your separation through the children’s adulthood can have profound impact.
Oftentimes parents think they can protect their children from the struggles of their parents. Unhappy couples may stay together for the sake of the children. Child psychologies differ on whether, in fact, this does children well. Children are extremely sensitive and pick up upon the tension, anger, and hurt that parents may be experiencing even if parents may be “putting on a good face.” Thus, the idea of “sticking it out” until the kids are grown, while well intentioned, may not be the best choice—especially if the level of discord between the parents is high.
If you have decided to separate, involving your children in suitably in the separation and divorce process is exceedingly important. Child development experts agree that being upfront with children and telling them what is happening is important. Edward Kruk, PhD., advises that you should talk with your children about divorce.
- Provide facts about what is happening between mommy and daddy without going into the reasons. You can let your children know that their parents have differences and will no longer be living together, but you do not have to give the reasons why.
- Allow children their questions, and answer them honestly. This is essential. Your children may want to know what will happen to them; where they will sleep, will they still see their friends and family, whether they will have to move. Be clear about what will happen in your children’s lives.
- Remind the children that both parents love them and that the cause of the parent’s split has nothing to do with the children this is critical.
Children may fantasize that parents will get back together. It is best to not let them indulge this fantasy to excess.
Dr. Fran Walfish a family and relationship psychotherapist and the author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child” adds the following tips for the newly divorced or divorcing parents:
- “Keep structure and routine the same in both homes. Maintain the same bedtime, mealtimes, wakeup time, homework schedule and extracurricular activities. The more stable your child’s life and routine, the less separation anxiety they will suffer.
- Keep rules, expectations, and consequences the same in both homes.When parents are able to do this effectively we see a reduction of angry behavior and emotional problems in teens.
- Keep their school the same.[If possible] don’t also move and change your child’s home and school at the same time [as divorcing]. To lose the continuity of the same friends, teachers, and camps and overall school environment could be even more traumatic for your child who must adjust to the divorce shakeup.
- Nurture, nourish, and facilitate ongoing relationships for your teen with extended family members.When parents divorce, sometimes kids lose their cousins, aunts and uncles on one or both sides of the family. The more people who love and care about your kids the less painful the divorce will be. Allow your child to be loved by many people.
For parents who find communication and negotiation especially challenging working with a co-parenting counselor may be an option.
If you wish to discuss custody or co-parenting issues, feel free to contact our office at Bookspan Family Law, LLC 610 565-6200