Despite thousands of children experiencing divorce each year, it can still make them feel like they are all alone in the world. No matter their age, the kids’ reaction could be anything from a traumatizing shock that makes them act out in school, to a deep sadness which they try to conceal. However, if you go about it the right way (as right as you can), you will not only help your kids survive, you will help them grow into better adults than they might have been if your family had stayed together in an unfriendly environment.
1. Break the News Gently
As soon as you and your partner make the decision to go through with the divorce, try letting your children know. It is better for everybody to go through this change gradually and together instead of abruptly yanking one parent out of the home and instantaneously changing everybody’s life without a warning. Both parents should be present for the initial conversation, the flow of which you should discuss and agree upon beforehand. If you give your children the impression that both mom and dad are on the same side, it will be easier for them to see this more positively. It is important to tell them that sometimes people change the way they feel towards each other, but that parents never change the way they love their children. Make sure they know that in the end, it is better to separate and find happiness than to live in a home full of grief and unresolved anger. This is something your kids should learn in case they ever find themselves in a similar situation later in life.
2. Prepare for What’s to Come
After you let your kids know what is about to happen, they are sure to have a million questions. Whether they accept the news of the divorce or not, they will no doubt want to know what comes next. Once you talk through the emotional part, try to focus on the technicalities of the situation. Who will they live with? Will they have two pajamas in two different houses? Where will they celebrate their birthdays? Give them as much information about the upcoming changes in as much detail as possible. The first step towards normality is making sure that their daily routines, such as school and favorite activities, will not be majorly disrupted. Consistency will do its job in comforting your children.
3. Get Professional Help
It is more than okay to ask for help in times like these. Try talking to a friend who has gone through a divorce or finds a support group. Get someone like your therapist to refer you to an expert that could ease this major transition. Aussies have many options for family meditation services in Sydney, for example. Consulting a mediator will help your entire family adjust in a healthy way. They can handle the anger between you and your soon-to-be ex in ways which will spare your children much pain. No matter how much your kids offer you emotional support, it is important that you rely on an adult to do the job and maintain certain boundaries with your kids. The children will want to do things for you to make you feel better, but this is a moment where they will need to know that you are their rock, not the other way around. Also, by talking to someone, you will set an example for your kids and encourage them to do the same.
4. Don’t Use Your Kids as Messengers
Once you separate and start living in different homes, don’t use your kids to send hostile messages to your ex-partner. Communication is important but it is also crucial to keep your blaming and name-calling private. If things can’t be civil just yet, then try to keep the interactions with your ex to a minimum. Yes, you still need to talk to each other because both parents should be up to date on their children’s lives (especially while going through a divorce), but try to do this without fighting and yelling. Such hostility, even though not directed towards your kids, can make them develop problems which could drag on into adulthood. Be considerate of the fact that your little ones are still learning how to form relationships of their own and that they might be unintentionally taking note of all the violence they see.
5. Keep Your Wits About You
If you are going through a hostile divorce or custody battle, which can bring out the worst in anybody, try not to act out even if provoked. Take the high road and save your energy for taking care of your kids which you can do by taking care of yourself first. If you manage your stress and keep yourself healthy, both physically and emotionally, you will be more available for when your children need you – and they will need you.
Divorce is one of the biggest changes a family or an individual can go through. However, if you all work together to accept it and settle into your new routines, this major change has the possibility to make your children stronger and happier adults.