Even in the face of divorce or separation, most parents can agree on one thing: they want to minimize the impact their split will have on their kids. A good way to accomplish this is to explore alternative dispute options like mediation or collaborative divorce. These processes are designed specifically to help couples work out their differences through discussion and negotiation. Those who take advantage of these processes often obtain outcomes that better suit their family’s unique needs, because they had a say in how matters were settled.
Additionally, there are many other ways to help children through the divorce process, such as:
- Not involving them in your legal discussions. Children do not want to choose between you and your partner, so asking for their opinions will just add to their distress. This also means refraining from making your children the messenger or the spy for you.
- Not venting to them. Venting about your spouse or the frustrations of your divorce only exacerbates the emotional trauma children feel. Talk with an adult friend, family member or therapist instead.
- Checking in and remaining open to their questions. Keeping the lines of communication open is key to helping children cope with divorce. Encourage them to share their feelings and offer reassurance again and again that your divorce is not their fault. If your children seem reticent or retreat into themselves, check in periodically to see how they’re doing and to let them know you’re always happy to talk.
- Minimizing disruptions to normal routines as much as possible. It’s inevitable that your routines will change at least somewhat, but most experts agree that maintaining your children’s routines as much as you can helps them adjust faster to the new routines set by your parenting plan.
- Allowing time for adjustment. The days of getting used to this new normal may be difficult at first. Have patience, at least initially, with things like schedule snafus or unexpected surprises. If these lapses become routine, it may be time to talk to a parenting coordinator, who can help parents work on their cooperation.
It cannot be overstated how much of your children’s wellbeing depends on your behavior during this period. By surrounding yourself with professional help, you and your children can come through the divorce process successfully.