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If you and your spouse handle your divorce well, your children can come out the other side with a stronger and healthier sense of how best to resolve conflicts. Divorce can also help children develop mature coping mechanisms for stress. Life will never be devoid of stress, so they will learn to deal with those feelings sooner or later. Still, the thought of your children being dragged along this process is daunting, but we outline some steps you can take to make your divorce as easy as possible on your children.
- When you tell your children, be straightforward and matter-of-factual. Talk to your spouse ahead of time and go over how you will break the news. If at all possible, you and your partner should both be in the room. Let your children know the divorce is not their fault, the new arrangement does not mean you love them any less, and that they should be open with you about how they’re feeling. It is also helpful to give your children as many practical details you feel is appropriate, such as which spouse might be temporarily moving out.
- Do not fight in front of your children,during the initial news break or any other time. That may seem like the most impossible task you can imagine, and it’s likely that constant fighting was a major factor in your decision to divorce your spouse. Nevertheless, study after study has shown that children who are exposed to their parents’ quarrels fare worse mentally and emotionally going forward. By the same token, it is similarly damaging for your child to witness the two of you fighting in any context, including during your marriage. So, if you find yourself battling your spouse in front of your children, remember that is what you are trying to eliminate with your divorce.
- Involve other trusted adults in the process. This could benefit you just as much as your children. If you’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” once you’ve heard it countless times. It is especially true when you have children and are going through a divorce. Having loving, familiar adults around for children is extremely beneficial, and it can take some of the burden off of you.
- Adjust based on your children’s age, emotional intelligence, and other situational factors. Although many rules – including the ones above – are transferable to children of all ages, it is undeniable that a five-year-old will adjust to divorce differently than a teenager. An adolescent not getting to see their same friends will probably be a bigger deal than a toddler adjusting to the same changes. Each child will handle the divorce a little differently, so be prepared to calibrate and re-calibrate as the process rolls along.
- Give yourself the resources to deal with the process. Don’t hesitate to start seeing a therapist for your feelings. Acting strong and hiding your own feelings for your children’s sake is damaging to everyone. If you’re generous and allow yourself to be vulnerable during a divorce, your children will sense that you’re experiencing similar emotions and they will see you as more on their level.
A divorce has many moving parts; the more smoothly one aspect proceeds, the better your children will process your divorce. By providing knowledgeable and empathetic legal guidance, we can help make your divorce a little easier. Call us at 980-272-1365 to get started.