It’s estimated there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. While there are other statistics about marriage and children that could shock you, that one alone should be enough. The divorce rate in this country is about 41% for a first marriage, but that rate increases for second and third marriages.
While that’s bad enough, the worst part is there are often children involved.
No question: going through a divorce is overwhelming. It’s emotionally taxing, physically exhausting, and can even elicit feelings of fear, anger, and hopelessness. You may find yourself asking “what now?”
But, you’re not the only one going through it. Unfortunately, children can be greatly impacted by divorce. Their whole lives change in an instant, leaving them with plenty of questions and uncertainties about the future. Thankfully, there are things you can do to minimise that negative impact.
Talk to Them
Transparency is incredibly important when it comes to kids and divorce. Think about how many uncertain questions you might have right now, and how much worse those questions might be for your kids. They might be asking themselves things like:
- Who will I live with?
- Will I have to change schools?
- Will I get to see my friends?
- Can I still do the things I love?
- Do my parents still love me?
- Are my parents leaving me?
Even if your child doesn’t directly ask you these questions, set aside time to talk to them. That doesn’t mean you need to involve the children in the nitty-gritty of the divorce. Encourage honesty, and be honest, yourself. But, keep the details to yourself. You don’t want to badmouth another parent in front of your children or tarnish that relationship.
Most importantly, you should provide reassurance. Your child needs to know that they are still going to be cared for. They are still loved, and nothing will change that.
Make Changes Transparent
Any changes that do have to occur should also be something you talk about with your child. If you have to move, discuss it with them. Turn it into a positive situation. Get them involved in the moving process and reassure them that their life isn’t going to change too much because of it. If possible, keep your children in the same school district. But, if you have to change, make them a part of that process as well and introduce them to the new school as soon as possible.
Depending on your child’s age, you should also go over any schedule changes that might occur because of parenting time. These schedules are usually either set up by the parents or through a court order. The idea is to create a schedule that puts the best interest of the children first. But, even when that’s the case, it can be a hard change for kids to get used to.
Make sure that no changes that occur in their lives feel “sudden” or out of nowhere. If they’re struggling with any of those changes, having one-on-one time with that child to talk about it can make a big difference.
Be a Good Co-Parent
One of the hardest challenges you might personally face after your divorce is co-parenting with your former spouse. A good co-parent should:
- Stay child-focused
- Never use children as messengers
- Show restraint
- Make reasonable requests
- Keep your personal issues to yourself
You’re not a couple anymore. Instead, you should work together with a “professional” tone to do what is best for your children. With that being said, never argue in front of your children, whether it’s directly about them, or about personal issues. You don’t ever want to make your child choose a side, or think poorly about either parent. So, handle your parenting problems in private.
For example, if your ex is required to pay child support and hasn’t done so, you might be frustrated, angry, or even fearful about your financial situation. Being able to manage money as a single parent isn’t easy, and child support can make a big difference. But, that’s something that shouldn’t be discussed in front of your children. In some cases, attorneys may need to get involved. But, no matter how far that issue or any other problem goes, it should always stay between the two of you and never involve the kids.
Keep Life as Normal as Possible
Children thrive on routine. While you may not be able to keep their lives completely the same, try to stick to the same routine now that they’ve had all their lives. They are going to have to adjust to many changes, but keeping as many things as consistent as possible will be a big help.
Minimise abrupt schedule changes as much as possible, and don’t “pull” your kids away from things that they’re used to.
Too many changes and unfamiliarities could start to trigger behavioural issues in your children. Those can come up differently, depending on your child’s age. For example, a younger child might start to suck their thumb or wet the bed. A teenager might start to act out. Keeping things consistent can help to limit the risk of these issues.
There’s no denying that divorce will be hard on your kids. But, if you’re willing to work with your ex and put your children ahead of your own feelings, you can minimise the negative impact and walk with them into the next chapter of your life.