Spouses who choose to file for divorce must address many details before it is finalized. There will likely be some back and forth as the two sides protect their best interests and parental rights. At the same time, the children’s well-being should be the top priority. Part of ensuring that well-being is determining what is most important to the children during and after the divorce.
Well-intentioned parents may wish to share details about the divorce, so the children understand. However, this information should be age-appropriate and avoid the details (sordid or otherwise) of what ended the relationship. Conversely, parents can get caught up in the tangled web of the divorce and try to protect children from these complex issues. This can leave them feeling isolated and can lead them to anger, confusion, sadness, and grief.
Just ask them
An excellent place to start the conversation about divorce is to ask them about their concerns. It may take more than one conversation to find out what their fears are. Sometimes they may not even be able to articulate it, but it is evident in their actions and anxieties.
Researchers have found that children do not care about child support, whether a parent approves of an ex’s new partner or a dispute that erupts after the divorce. While each child is different and priorities will shift with age, typical concerns include:
- Who will cook their favorite dinner?
- Who will they hear on the sidelines at games?
- Who will pick them up from school?
- Who will help them with homework?
- Who will stay up with them when they are sick?
- Who will listen when they talk about problems or struggles?
Teamwork helps with the follow-through
Stability and reliability go a long way in dispelling the above concerns. Parents can also strategize to ensure that the child gets what they need, when they need it, and from whom by creating a certain amount of flexibility in the parenting plan. While it may not be as easy as a strict schedule, the long-term benefits will far outweigh short term convenience.