According to the American Psychological Association, about 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon; your kids should know that they aren’t the only children to go through this, there are others who understand all the hardship.
Make the Process as Fast and Amicable as Possible
This may mean avoiding litigation, but instead settling ownership and custody issues through mediation. If you can successfully negotiate and agree on compromises, the process will most likely be faster and cheaper. The nature of litigation pits you against your ex spouse; employing a more collaborative effort additionally spares a child that is sensitive to seeing you and your ex so at odds. Mediation will ensure both parties get to participate in the decision making process equally, and will foster productivity and cooperation and discourage nastiness from both you and your ex. It is a perfect beginning to the co-parenting relationship you’ll have to balance with them in your future.
Keep them Out of it
Whatever ill will you harbor towards your ex, whatever comments, whatever hurt they have burdened you with, do not speak badly of your ex. Do not put your kids in the middle of arguments, and do not burden them with your pain. They are not your caretaker and they have needs of their own, and you should be paying attention.
Take Care of Yourself
Flight safety demonstrations have it right–before you can help your children, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. A large part of shielding them from the rougher parts of divorce entails making sure your needs are met, and they don’t spill over to burden your child. Eat right, get enough sleep, get exercise. Form a support system, of friends, of family, of other people going through what you are–many cities and larger towns have divorce support groups. Consider seeing a therapist until you’re in control. You have many resources available to you to sort through everything and move on; make sure none are your children.
Don’t Use Your Child to Communicate with Your Ex
They are not your messengers, and should not be your primary source of information on your ex. Don’t constantly ask them what is going on in their other parent’s life. These should all be conversations you have with your ex yourself; making them the authority on your ex can be harmful to their trust in you.
Maintain as Much Stability as Possible
If you can avoid it, don’t move. Keep your children at the same schools, where things are familiar and they don’t have to adjust to new friends and scenery along with adjusting to the divorce. This keeps their lives from becoming too overwhelming.
Children often think parts of divorce are their fault. Remind them that this isn’t true. Support them, encourage them to pursue new interests, hobbies, and even form new friendships, while maintaining the old of course. Above all just make sure they know that you love them unconditionally, you and their other parent. A child that feels safe, loved and protected will flourish no matter their family situation. You can, and must always give them your love.
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