I read a post from the South Carolina Family Law Blog about ways to make divorce or separation easier on children. I’d like to share that with you (modified a bit with my personal observations). There is no way that the children will not be impacted negatively by divorce or separation, however there are things that you can do to minimize the trauma:
- Do not discuss the divorce with your children, regardless of their age. This includes discussions within ear shot of your children. Guaranteed that any information discussed, and overheard by your children, will make your children feel guilty or sad.
- Do not use your children as messengers. Communicate with the other parent like an adult. If the other parent is acting like a child then communicate through official procedures that can be tracked (i.e. certified mail, hand delivered items through a deliver company, etc…). There are many other ways to communicate than through your children. Again, if you are doing this, you are devastating your children, whether they show it or not.
- Never speak poorly about the other parent. If you need to vent, do it when the children are no where around. Otherwise, speak positively about the other parent in front of the child and remind them that the other parent loves them very much. No matter how painful that might be for you, you are an adult, suck it up. You don’t like going to the dentist, but you do it (I hope). Which is more important, your teeth cleaning or your children? As Nike says – “Just Do It”. Bottom line, if you draw a line in the sand and force the child to choose sides, it may not be your side.
- Never speak poorly about the other parent’s new partner. Think of how much time that person will be spending with your child. Do you want them on your side or against you? You may not be able to control how they feel about you, but if they are the negative person and you are supportive of their position, who do you think your child will side with? Be the bigger person.
- Don’t hide. Alert your children’s teachers, counselors, daycare providers and coaches that your child may be experiencing a difficult time. They can keep you up-to-date on how your child is feeling. People may work to keep your child upbeat and positive if they know he or she is troubled about a separated family.
- Don’t write scandalous or disparaging declarations about the other parent, their partner or any of their family members in your legal proceeding. The urge to write something mean is temporary, while declarations filed with the Court become public record. Consider that when your child turns 18 years old, he or she may go to the courthouse to read the file. This is a GREAT point. They will get curious someday and go look at that file. What do you want them to hear you saying?
- Both parents should be independently responsible for their child’s health, welfare, safety and happiness. Make sure you have everything they need at your house. Don’t rely on the other parent to provide diapers, clothing or toys. Your child should ideally have almost everything at both homes. Additionally, if your child brings something from the other house, send it back. Again, you are an adult. Act like it.
- Consistency is your child’s source of stability during this emotional time. Do not disrupt your child’s routine by removing them from any activities that make them happy. Don’t discuss the financial costs of such activities with your child. Include the other parent in activities of the child. I can assure you that the best day your child will have post separation or divorce is when they both attend an event for the child and they are cordial. Don’t you want to make your child happy?
- Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You may have less income than ever before because you are paying child support or relying on the other parent’s income for support, but your children’s needs come first. You should not be embarrassed or too proud to request financial aid during this time. Try to keep life as normal as possible for your child, within your new means.
- Don’t give up! You are your child’s role model. As hard as it may be, stay focused. Your moods affect your child’s moods and behaviors. Children mimic their parents. You do not want your child to be sad, angry or resentful. If you dwell on the negative issues, then you are setting your child up for failure.
I read these in the post linked above, but the original article came from Alameda Family Law Attorney Tells Parents How They Can Make Divorce Easier on Their Kids by Gina Mariani.