What do you want your child’s divorce story to be? Ending an unhappy union through a divorce can sometimes be the best solution for a family. We know divorce affects children, but it does not have to traumatize children or be nasty and contentious. It can be a relief for your children to see both of their parents happier and better-adjusted post-divorce. Your child can have the opportunity to develop a stronger relationship with both parents and their siblings because of divorce. Your divorce approach can impact a generation. What will your child’s lifelong memories be after your divorce? Will your child remember the joy of seeing both of their parents sitting in the same row at their school play? Or will they remember the tension between you and your co-parent as you sat on opposite sides of the theatre and agonizing over which parent to run to first after their play? Will your child remember stressful custody exchanges or special times at both parents’ homes? Keep this in the forefront of your mind as you proceed through your separation and divorce.
A parent is never perfect, but you are the perfect parent for your child. Divorce is a huge transition in a child’s life and there are steps you can take to help your child’s divorce story be a positive one.
LOVE YOUR KIDS
Love them. That’s simplistic, but it’s truly the best thing you can do. Be present with your child as they experience this major life change. Listen actively if they want to talk; be with them quietly if they don’t. Hug them, check in with them often, and remind them that you love them and will be there if they ever want to talk. Be open to their questions and answer them honestly at an age-appropriate level. Keep in mind as you answer that you protect them from the legal side of the divorce, even if they are older. Explain the new logistics of at whose house they will sleep and when, and who will pick them up from school, but shield them from the intricate details of child custody, child support, alimony, and anything regarding the marital estate.
TREAT YOUR CO-PARENT RESPECTFULLY
Make your child’s well-being your priority by treating your co-parent with respect and civility. Think of how your child will be affected by your words, thoughts, and actions around the divorce and toward your co-parent. Treat your co-parent with respect for no other reason except that your co-parent is an extension of your child. Be aware of how you speak about your co-parent around your child and only speak positively about your child’s time with your co-parent. Kids will often say they don’t want to go to the other parent’s home, but there can be many reasons for this. Don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes a child’s hesitance to leave you is just a sign that the child has a healthy attachment to you, like when a child cries at daycare drop-off (and recovers within a minute of you walking out the door).
DO NOT RELY ON YOUR CHILDREN FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
It is okay to be transparent about your own feelings and emotions throughout the divorce process, but do not rely on your children to support you emotionally. Children should not be the ones comforting you about your adult problems. They should not be taking on your emotional load while trying to manage their own. Find a qualified therapist or talk to family or friends for support.
By following this advice, you will let your children maintain their childhood through a divorce and preserve pleasant childhood memories with both of their parents. The divorce story your child will tell in adulthood will be one where their parents were brave enough to make the right decision to move on so they could be better people and better parents post-divorce. You can contact us if you are ready to take that next brave step.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC