- Therapy—Find a
therapist that is experienced with children of divorcing parents.
Children can benefit from having a person they can talk with and not
worry about using the information against a parent. A professional
may help a child understand the events and address any guilt the
child may have.
- Avoid Divorce Discussions—A
divorce can be all consuming to parents. It is natural to want to
discuss this with friends and relatives. However, children seem to
hear all conversations and telephone calls that occur in the house
when they are present. Even when the children are suppose to be
asleep, they seem to overhear conversations. Take the conversations
out of the house or make sure that the children are out of the
house. If you are holding discussions with your spouse, make a date
to meet at a coffee shop. This prevents the children from hearing
and the public meeting place may cause the spouse to put on “public
manners.” When I call clients to discuss divorce issues, I
frequently start by asking if it is a good time to talk.
- Behave calmly--Children sense when their
parents suffer from stress and anger. If you can, remain calm and
collected when in the presence of the children. The calmer you are,
the more reassuring you are to the children.
- Avoid conflict—Fighting
with your spouse creates stress for the children. The children
won't understand the fight and won't know what to do. They may feel
forced to choose between the two parents. Try to be polite when
talking to your spouse. Keep your fights to appropriate arenas like
email, therapists, and court.
- Talk to your children—Tell
them that they are not responsible for the divorce. Explain that
this is strictly between the adults and the reasons are adult issues
that you won't discuss with the children. Explain to them how the
custody and visitation will work. Reaffirm that they won't be
losing either parent. However, not all issues should be discussed
with the children. Avoid talking to the children about the
financial issues in the divorce.
- Seek consistency and stability—Children
thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
To the extent possible, try to avoid disrupting children's lives.
Work out a shared parenting agreement that takes into account the
child's needs and desires while giving both parents reasonable
parenting time. Be flexible to accommodate events that are
important to all parties including the children.
- Don't put the children in the middle.-- Avoid
sending messages or passing items through the children. When you
pass messages or support checks through the children, the children
become associated with the message. A person who resents weekly
child support blames the children for the weekly financial drain.
Use email and telephones for messages. Pay support obligations by
mail or bank by check so that there is no face to face exchange. If
the child delivers an unwelcome message, there is no ability to
respond and argue. Email and telephone both allow responses.
- Agree on house rules—One
of the first things that children learn in a separated house is how
to play one parent against the other. They manipulate to change the
rules of the house. Things like bedtimes and homework suddenly are
more flexible. Children will try to sell their affection for
bending of the rules. Don't give in to the temptation. Avoid being
the fun parent as your primary focus. Make sure both parents agree
on the rules of the house and don't change them without consulting
the other parent.
Divorce has a major impact on children's lives. Both parents should cooperate to reduce the stress on the children. The joint goal should be to raise the children to be productive adults who can have significant relationships as an adult. Don't sacrifice the long term goal for short term rewards. An experienced divorce attorney can help guide when raising children in a divorce.