Of all the people hurt during a divorce, your children are hurt the most. Here are 11 ways you can help your children.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #1: Think carefully about how to tell your children about your divorce. What is best will depend on the children’s ages. Ideally, you and your spouse should tell them together. There are many fine children’s books on the topic of divorce. Going through these materials will be painful at first, but your children will have a better understanding of what is happening even if they are still very young. Most importantly, make sure that the children understand that the divorce is not their fault. Children always believe that if they had done something differently, then you and your spouse would not be getting a divorce.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #2: Do not discuss the divorce case with your kids. You might think that portraying your ex-wife in a negative light will help your relationship with your children. It won’t. Don’t do it. Don’t involve them. Too many parents violate this rule.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #3: Do not use your children as a shoulder to cry on. As you go through the divorce, you will feel depressed, angry, upset, and many other emotions. Your children are there and know what is going on -- so it is tempting to unload your burdens on them. Do not do so. You are the parent and they are the children. Instead, talk with friends and family or go to a counsellor. Children should be allowed to be children and not shoulder your adult concerns.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #4: Do not use your children as bargaining chips. Children are not property that can be traded, bought or sold. Treat them well and always consider their needs.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #5: Let your children know that it is alright to love both parents. You do not want the children to feel pressured to choose between you and your spouse. Do not criticize your former spouse to your children. Do not use your children to spy on your former spouse.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #6: Do not use your children as messengers. Divorce is difficult enough for children already, without having to relay messages between you and your former spouse. Be sure to provide your former spouse with all the information she needs about your children.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #7: Never disparage their mother to them under any circumstances. Do not allow other people to disparage their mother to them or say negative things about your ex-wife in their presence.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #8: Do not argue in front of your children. Parental conflict can devastate them.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #9: Continue being a good parent. It is easy to get self-absorbed in your emotions during a divorce. Continue to be as good a parent as you can. Sometimes divorcing parents feel guilty about getting divorced. That is normal and natural. However, do not compromise discipline because of these feelings. Your children will remain your children. Nothing anyone can do -- be it your ex-wife, a new stepfather or anyone else -- can break the bonds you have developed with your children. When you understand this, you can separate yourself and your kids from this process and be an effective parent despite the circumstances.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #10: Try to co-parent with your ex-wife as much as possible. Sometimes, this is not practicable, especially with high conflict divorces. But joint decisions are always best and it prevents the kids from playing one parent against the other.
THOUGHTFUL WAY #11: When working out a time share, try to cut down on transitions. If children are shuttled too much from house to house, that leads to confusion and ultimately to resentment.