Divorce is difficult for everyone, but it can be especially devastating to children. Many children develop anxiety and stress while the divorce is going on, so it is critical for parents to do take all the steps they can to protect their children’s emotional well-being in order to create a more positive situation. Some steps that can be helpful include:
Offering reassurance: Many children think they are to blame for the breakup of their parents’ marriage. Both parents need to take the time and reassure their child that the divorce has nothing to do with them. Let them know that both you and their other parent will always love them and be there for them no matter what. Your child will likely need this reassurance often, especially at the beginning of the divorce process. It is also a good idea to delay introducing any new significant others you or your ex-spouse may be dating until your child feels more secure in knowing the divorce will not change his or her relationship with Mom and Dad.
Avoid conflicts with your spouse in front of your child: Even the friendliest of divorces can have areas of acrimony that can cause conflict between you and your soon-to-be ex. The worst thing parents can do is have those arguments in front of their child. Parents should also avoid sending messages back and forth to each other through the child.
Work together: Although it may be difficult to work with your ex-spouse, the reality is that you will both be co-parents the rest of your lives. Co-parenting does not end when a child turns 18. It continues through college graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. Learning to get along and cooperate with your ex may be difficult, but it is something that will greatly benefit your child – and the both of you – in the long run.
Consider therapy: If you are having a hard time adjusting to the divorce or handling the stress that comes with the process, do not vent to your child about these things. Consider going to see a therapist to discuss these issues. You may also want to consider therapy for your child. Talking with a counselor is a good way for a child to be able to share what he or she is truly feeling about the divorce and can help them work through all the emotions they may be dealing with, too.
Consider mediation: A divorce that goes through the traditional litigation process can be drawn out and expensive. Litigation can also make the whole process even more stressful than it needs to be for everyone involved. This is why many couples turned to divorce mediation. Instead of an adversarial relationship, mediation is one where both parties come together. Mediation may be a better option, allowing you and your spouse to work through ending your marriage in a cooperative and amicable manner which can help set the tone for working together as co-parents in the future.