Going through a messy divorce is easily one of the most stressful and upsetting things an adult has to deal with in life. However, when there are children involved, the situation can become even more difficult, as it is not only the feelings of the adults that need to be taken into consideration. Witnessing first-hand the breakdown of their parents’ marriage can have a huge and lasting impact on a child, so it is vital that the situation is treated sensitively. In order to make sure that the process of a divorce is not a traumatic experience for a child, their feelings must be kept as a priority.
Whatever the reason behind a divorce, most people who get to this stage would agree that it is for the best and indeed, in a household with children, the separation of two parents who are constantly arguing can be a positive step towards removing conflict and confrontation from the home environment.
Honesty and Trust
The first step in dealing with divorce, as with so many things involving kids, is that honesty is always the best policy. Speak to your partner about breaking the news to your children and set some ground rules about how the flow of communication will go. Ideally, you should both be present at the time the news is broken and avoid arguing or making it seem like someone was at fault. Many family law solicitors will be able to offer a mediation service if you think you need some guidance, but if at all possible it is better to do this in the comfort of your home, away from third parties.
Most importantly, make it very clear that whatever the reasons for your divorce, your children were not at fault. Children will often blame themselves, so work with your spouse to really drive home the fact that your kids didn't have anything to do with your decision to split. Encourage open questions from your children about the divorce and answer them as honestly as possible. However, steer away from telling them about arguments or other adult issues which they don't need to know the details of.
Prepare them for Changes
When major life changes are on the horizon, as there invariably are when two people divorce, give your children plenty of warning and allow them to prepare themselves for the change. This might be as minor as missing Saturday swimming to spend time with the other parent, or as major as moving house or changing school. Kids need time to assimilate the impacts of these changes to their lives, just as adults do, so talk things through with them and make sure they understand what is happening and why.
Be Consistent Parents
Whatever you do, keep up the team-parenting goals as much as you can, even though you are now working separately. Household rules, such as bed times and chores should be maintained, regardless of whose care the child is under at the time. Don't be tempted into a 'best parent' competition by buying them treats, taking them on expensive days out or allowing them to do things or behave in a way that you previously wouldn’t have let slide. Your kids only want to spend time with you and will not thank you for making them the subject or your anger, jealousy or bitterness towards the other person.
Divorce needn't be a negative life change for your children. As much as you will feel relief from getting away from tense, angry situations, so your children will thrive in a place they can be calm and relaxed. Make home a safe environment for them and try to ignore your feelings about your former partner during the time you spend with your children.
This guest post was written by Francesca who is a freelance writer and blogger who enjoys writing about a variety of subjects. She currently writes on behalf of Abneys family law solicitors.