Even during the most amicable divorce, everyone pays a high price emotionally. Adults have accumulated wisdom and maturity that help them adjust. Children, however, need instruction, patience and understanding to adapt to change. Parents, both collectively and individually, can take specific steps to minimize the profound effect the process will have on their lives.
How should parents tell children they will divorce?
A form of physical separation, even if not legal, usually precedes a divorce. Parents who include children at this point may initially encounter resistance. Yet, everyone may cope better in the long-term if parents and children have a discussion at this point. Recommended steps include the following:
- Tell the kids about divorce together: This helps parents consider questions they will have to confront sooner or later, especially from a legal standpoint. Answers to questions such as “Where will we live?” and “What about my friends?” can soothe a child’s worry.
- Tell kids in the home environment: Home provides a safe place where a child can speak freely without worry about reactions from others. This will help them understand the parents’ concerns and reasons for the divorce and not accept blame.
- Be sincere: Approach the issue with an understanding of truthfulness. Expecting and allowing them to cry and weep naturally accelerates the adjustment process.
How does the parent/child relationships change during divorce?
During the divorce, the adjustment process continues for the children. Similarly, parents need to pay attention to how the new relationship directly impacts their children. Steps to keep in mind include:
- Avoid criticizing your ex-spouse in front of the children: The feelings you have toward your ex-spouse should not cloud their perspective. They have a relationship independent of you. Any hurtful statements about the other could upset them.
- Seek out a support structure: Close friends and different community relationships, e.g., teachers and school counselors, can assess behavior with the proper perspective and react appropriately.
An attorney with an understanding of the toll that divorce takes not only on parents but also the children throughout the process can guide you.