Divorce on its own is often a complicated, emotional experience, and it becomes more difficult when there are children involved.
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While your children are not the ones getting divorced technically speaking, they are still very much affected by what is happening between you and your soon-to-be former spouse.
However, you can make the process less painful and reduce the effects on your children by following the tips outlined below. Above all, always remember that your children need you now more than ever.
Make Love Clear
Your child may have the false belief that the divorce is somehow his or her fault. It’s common for children to think if they’d only been better behaved or done something differently, their parents would have stayed together. Tell your children that you love them, and tell them often. Make it clear that the divorce is not the result of anything they did or didn’t do, but purely a matter between you and your spouse.
Be prepared to reassure your child in the case of the absence of the other parent. If, for example, your spouse fails to show up for a planned visit for no good reason, be sure to tell your child that he or she is still loved by your spouse, but he or she is not making the correct choices right now.
Have alternative activities planned in case your spouse bails on a visit, such as a trip to the park or an arts and craft project. While it’s not a replacement for the visit with the other parent, you can take the sting out of your child’s disappointment by have a little diversion on standby.
Don’t sugarcoat what is happening. If the other parent isn’t living up to his or her obligation as a good parent, you have to let your child express frustration at that fact. Don’t cover for the other parent or criticize him or her either, just let your child vent, as expressing emotions is healthy.
You may have to prompt the conversation if you know it’s bothering your child but he or she isn’t saying anything. For instance, if one parent fails to come to pick your child up for a visit, you can say, “I know you might be sad because Mom (or Dad) didn’t come today,” and let your child reply. It’s vital you don’t put down or defend the other parent with your child, but allow him or her to speak about their feelings.
Keep It Peaceful
It can be hard not to fight with your spouse, but make sure it never happens in front of your kids; have heated discussions or arguments only when your kids aren’t around. While it may not be possible for you and your spouse to get along, nasty arguments in front of kids affects them emotionally, as shown by a Cardiff University study. Make a pact with your spouse to refrain from arguing in front of the children. Agree to walk away and pick up the topic later when your children aren’t in earshot.
Send The Right Message
When your child goes to visit with the other parent, see him or her off with a smile so they know you approve. And when they return, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how their time went, just as you would with other trips and visits with relatives.
It can be tempting to stay quiet so you don’t look like you’re after information about your spouse, but doing so may send the wrong message to your child, such as disapproval.