Divorce Recovery for Your Children
6 strategies for parents to help their children recover after divorce.
When we make vows of eternal love, support, and happiness, we (most of us, anyway) do so with every intention of keeping them. Many couples dream of staying together for the rest of their lives, in a fulfilling, happy union filled with love, support and companionship.
However, even the best laid plans can go awry. Life happens and sometimes, even the best of relationships can get toxic. Arguments, quarrels, and fights fill your home and your best effort to salvage the marriage are in vain. The next step is, inevitably, a separation and divorce.
While this is a great solution for the adults involved, things can be a lot different if there are children, especially underage ones, in the mix. A divorce can cause upheaval and bring a lot of change in a child’s life. The kids may have to reside in two homes based on the agreed visitation and custody agreements, the parents may have new partners, and there is often acrimony and resentment resulting from the separation and divorce process.
Despite everything, most parents still love and care for their children, and want to see them happy and thriving. But how do you achieve this? Here are 6 strategies and approaches that can set your kids on the road to recovery after a divorce:
1. Be honest with your kids
It’s not easy opening up to your young ones about your divorce. Most couples will want to keep it secret in a move to protect the kids from stress and emotional experience.
However, this is not a situation that you can, or should, keep under wraps. Children are highly intuitive and usually know when things are “off” and the uncertainty can cause more stress and anxiety. The best move is to open up to your kids about the situation. Kids need to know the reality and it should all come from you, the parent.
How you tell your kids about divorce should also depend on their age. So, before you sit down with your kids to discuss the divorce, prepare yourself well. Know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to present it. Anticipate possible questions from the kids and know how to respond to them. Although your kids need an honest explanation, it’s essential to ensure that the explanation is kid-friendly.
If possible, plan the talk when your spouse is present, so that the kids can hear from both of you. At some point, you may need to explain to your kids why you’re getting a divorce. Avoid long-winded explanations, getting into unnecessary unsavory details, or blaming your spouse. Give a simple reason and stick to a few essential points to avoid confusing your kids.
2. Try to keep their lives consistent
Divorce comes with change but try to minimize the impact on the lives of your children. If your kids participated in certain activities before the divorce, let them continue taking part in those activities. For instance, if you regularly took your kids to play basketball, continue doing so even after the divorce. If you were the one attending school events for your kids, don’t stop just because you are divorced or it’s not your night/week.
Your kids need love and attention from both parents, even if it’s painful for you. Therefore, work with your spouse to try and keep the children’s lives, friends, activities, and schools the same.
3. Be civil to your former spouse
This is easier said than done, we get it. But since you are likely to meet your ex after divorce on many occasions (school activities and events, graduations, weddings, birth of grandchildren, and other big life events) making an effort to be civil is important.
While your children are still minors, be especially careful to avoid tension. Your children will be attentive to how you react and treat each other. They’ll want to know how you handle things even when you’re both on bad terms. This can be a great teaching moment on how to handle strife, conflict, and difficult moments.
Act in the best interest of the kids. Peaceful transitions will help the children adjust faster after the divorce.
4. Help your children grieve
To the kids, a divorce may feel like the loss of a parent or the life they once knew. Help them express their emotions to enable them to grieve the loss and adapt to the new circumstances.
First, give them your ears. Encourage your young ones to share their feelings and pay attention to what they say and how they say it. After a divorce, children may experience strange feelings that you don’t expect such as sadness, frustration, and loss.
Sometimes, children may lack words to express their feelings after a divorce. This can result in other less desirable ways of expressing emotions such as tantrums, age regression, and bullying. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to their moods and encourage them to talk. Encourage them to be honest with what they feel, even if they blame you for the divorce.
After they express their feelings, acknowledge them, even if you can’t change their sadness to happiness, or fix their problems. This will increase the level of trust between you and your kids. Additionally, as the kids grow, they may have more questions, concerns, and feelings about the divorce. Be ready to listen to them and offer clarity and guidance whenever possible.
5. Don’t put your kids in the middle
Do not use your kids to spy on your ex. Don’t let them choose between you and your ex. When they visit your ex, don’t ask them how the ex is doing. You’ll be putting your children in a difficult position.
Additionally, don’t ask the kids to deliver things like court documents or child support checks to your ex, as it may make them feel uncomfortable. If you must exchange any information with your ex, find a way to do it yourself.
If you are entering a joint custody arrangement, using a co-parenting communication service like TalkingParents is an easy and secure way for you and your ex to share information regarding your children. The service offers a variety of features to help co-parents communicate and coordinate, on the record. In addition to messaging and calling tools, TalkingParents also offers a Shared Calendar, Accountable Payments, and an Info Library (everything you need to communicate and coordinate with your ex, all in one place).
6. Get outside help
Love, reassurance, and time can see your kids through a divorce and heal their emotions. However, if they remain overwhelmed, seek professional help. Here are some signs that could indicate serious problems for your kids after a divorce.
- Poor concentration
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Sleep problems
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Disinterest in loved activities
- Self-injury and eating disorders
If you notice these signs in your children, alert and discuss the issue with their teachers and doctors and consult a child therapist.
Divorce can be hard on your children
Most parents find it challenging to see their kids through this difficult time, as they are often reeling from the divorce as well. However, parents should be honest with their kids and try to keep their lives consistent after a divorce. If the situation gets out of control, consider getting help from a therapist.
If you need a lawyer to help you process your divorce, offer advice, and help you to navigate through, get in touch with Aiello Harris law firm.