When you are getting a divorce or legal separation, it’s important to think about the ramifications this will have on your children. As you sort out custody arrangements and parenting plans, remember that this will impact your children. No matter how bitter, angry, and hurt you are, if you can handle the changes with maturity and grace, you can help out your children—especially in the long term.
So how can you help your children through a divorce or separation? Liberty Law has some tips to think about while you are going through this difficult time.
Try to maintain civility with your ex-spouse.
Your children need to feel as safe and secure as they can during a transition as traumatic as a divorce. Unless your ex-spouse is truly dangerous, your ex-spouse is still going to be in your children’s life for the long term. Make an effort to accept this, and as you communicate to your children, assure them that they will get to spend time with each parent. Assure them that both of you love them and will be part of their lives in significant ways. Try not to fight, demean, or play the blame game towards your spouse in front of your children. Try not to tear down your ex-spouse or make the children feel guilty for loving both of you. You are both their parents, after all. Most importantly, don’t discuss the case with your children.
Treat your children with emotional respect.
It can be easy to start to treat your children as if they should be more responsible or mature than they are during a divorce. Children often feel obligated to act happy, calm, or fine even when they’re not. On the flip side, they may act with legitimate anger, sadness, and frustration. Let them be emotionally honest during the process. Do not lean on your children for emotional support that should be given by other adults in your life. Your children should not have to act like mediators, counselors, or friends during such a stressful time in their own development. Seek out professional therapy, adult friends, support groups, and other age-appropriate relationships to depend on so that your own children can process the divorce on their terms.
Let your children choose and maintain relationships.
As much as you can, let your children choose and maintain relationships with your ex-spouse and extended relatives that they love. While you may not wish to be in their lives anymore, your children did not make that choice. Give your children the opportunity to choose who they want to spend time with, and in the long run this will be much healthier for their own processing and healing. Come up with a parenting plan with your ex-spouse and really follow through with that plan and try to keep with the schedule of visits. And don’t use visitations as a way to spy on your ex-spouse.
Be as stable and consistent as you can.
It’s easy to bend the rules and have hectic schedules during transitions like a divorce but try to maintain stability and consistency for your children even during a divorce. Set rules and abide by them. Discuss with your ex-spouse a consistent schedule that is followed in both households. If they went to bed at 9pm before the divorce, have them go to bed at 9pm now. It may be tempting to try to be the “fun” parent or let things slide for a while, but children crave rules and boundaries. The more stability you can offer as their parental figure, the more they will respect you in the long run.
We hope these tips can help you out. If you have any questions about divorce, let us know! Liberty Law is here to help with all your legal needs.