When I meet with a parent who is contemplating divorce, the worry I hear most often as he or she talks through the details of a troubled marriage is, “How will this affect our children?” Admittedly, that isn’t an easy question to answer. Every child is different. Every family situation is different.
If the parents are constantly fighting and no one speaks to each other at home, you may find the children are relieved or even glad their parents are separating. This reaction may or may not be short-lived once the parents actually separate.
If the parents have done a fantastic job of keeping their troubles hidden from the children, news of the separation and pending divorce could be a sudden blow to everything they know as “normal.” In situations like this, sometimes professional help may be needed to help the children deal with their feelings of anger, betrayal and sadness and to learn to adjust to life after the separation.
I read the article The Child of Divorce – My Story and believe the message can be a useful tool for parents currently contemplating or going through divorce. Here are three tips on how you can help your children through the transition:
1. NEVER ASK YOUR CHILD TO TAKE SIDES!
This may seem like a ‘no-brainer’, but this includes not making snide or degrading remarks about the other parent when you are alone with your child. Children often internalize your comments and walk away feeling guilty for enjoying their time with someone you obviously don’t like very much right now. Regardless of how you personally feel about your ex, try to always remember that it is your child’s father or mother you are speaking about to them! For your child’s sake, you should always work to instill respect and love for the other parent. When all else fails, remember your grandmother’s wise words, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
2. MAKE CUSTODY TRANSFERS AS CIVIL AS POSSIBLE.
For some couples, civil transfers just are not a reality due to the residual anger and resentment left over from the marriage or break-up. If you find yourself in a situation where arguments are breaking out every time little Suzy is picked up — be proactive.
Ask for or arrange for the transfer to take place at a time or place where you and your ex don’t have to see each other at all. For example, instead of Dad picking her up from your house at 6:00 PM every other Friday, change it to Dad picking her up after school/daycare every other Friday afternoon.
Picking a neutral ground that is safe and familiar for your child also increases the chance that he or she gets ample time to greet or say good-bye to each parent without feeling the tension between the two people she loves most.
3. DO NOT DISCUSS ANY PART OF YOUR DIVORCE NEGOTIATIONS, LITIGATION, OR CHILD SUPPORT WITH YOUR CHILDREN.
It will be tempting, especially with older children who may have some understanding of the divorce process or finances, but don’t do it! The legal side of your break-up is not something any child should be burdened with. When you find yourself needing to vent or seek advice regarding your case, call your best friend; your therapist; or your attorney outside of your child’s presence. Your child wants and deserves your full attention and that is not possible when you are preoccupied with your case.
As a grown-child of divorce, a mother and stepmother of six children who have experienced divorce, a Guardian ad Litem, and as an attorney, I understand the worries of the parents who seek my counsel during separation and divorce. At The Stevens Firm, we strive to help parents find parenting plans and custody arrangements that not only fit the family’s lifestyle, but more importantly, create security, consistency and loving environments for the children involved.
To schedule a consultation appointment CLICK HERE or call (864) 598-9172 today.