Divorce is a difficult process for anyone. Even if you are a proponent of your divorce, it can still be stressful and emotional to divide everything, debate over numerous issues, and tie up loose ends. Through all of this, you always have to keep the well-being of your children in mind, as divorce can be quite different through a child’s eyes.
Children Read the Signs before Divorce
Children can often tell when their parents are not getting along, no matter how hard the parents work to hide it. Children can identify when things do not seem right in the household, often long before the parents admit the marriage is ending. If your child seems to be catching on to your marital strife, it is important to address the issue with them.
During Separation and Divorce
When you or your spouse decides to move out, you should discuss the matter with your child as openly as possible. Plan ahead with your spouse regarding what you will say, and make sure you do not blame each other during the conversation. Use “we” when telling your young child about the decision to separate or divorce, so they do not assume it is one parent’s fault or the other.
Acknowledge that your decision to separate will bring about changes in the child’s life. Offer details about the specific changes your child will experience, including which parent is leaving and where the child will be visiting them. Tell them you are available to answer any questions they might have.
Of course, continually remind your child of your unconditional love. Accept that they will have their own reaction to this news, as well as their own emotions. Be sensitive to their unique reaction and that it might take time for them to adjust to their new “normal.”
How Kids View Custody Arrangements
When you are deciding on your shared custody schedule, always keep the physical and emotional needs of your child in mind. Ask many questions to decide the best schedule possible, including:
- Who usually helps the child with schoolwork?
- Does one parent coach a sports team or volunteer at school?
- Which parent takes the child to religious services, if applicable?
- Does one parent often get home late from work?
- Does one parent regularly travel on the weekends?
Many parents focus on what will work with their schedules, transportation, childcare resources, and other factors. However, it is critical to keep in mind how the child will benefit the most from a specific schedule.
Once you have a schedule in place, stick to it as much as possible. The child should be able to rely on their new routine, and constant changes can make them feel insecure and even more confused than they already would. Your child should always know who is picking them up and where they are sleeping each night.
The Benefits of Co-Parenting for Your Child
Once you are your spouse are separated or divorced, you should strive to engage in healthy co-parenting. You can bet your child will be closely watching both of you during all of these changes, and you want to set the best possible example. For instance, if your child sees you constantly upset, angry, or worried, chances are they will feel more upset, angry, and worried. On the other hand, if both parents seem confident in the new changes, the child may start to believe it is a positive change.
When you are co-parenting, always keep communication respectful, even if you disagree. Your child can easily feel torn between both parents and may be afraid to say certain things about their time with your spouse in front of you, or vice versa. You want your child to feel comfortable telling you everything – the bad and the good – about life in their other household. By feeling the support of both parents and not feeling like they have to choose, your child can feel more secure. In addition, displaying cooperation and problem-solving skills can set an example of how to respectfully resolve differences and conflicts.
The “New” Normal
Many children hold out hope that their parents will get back together, which can keep them from accepting the divorce. Parents should never give their child false hope of them reuniting and instead, focus on helping the child adjust to their new life and routine.
Contact a St. Louis Divorce Attorney for the Help You Need
You cannot control how your child views your divorce or the emotions they feel. However, parents can strive for the most stable and healthy environment – at both homes – for the child as possible. The more you cooperate with one another during a divorce, the better position you will both be in to cooperate and provide a strong support system for your children.