Tips to Help You Prepare Your Children for Divorce
Deciding to pursue a divorce is never easy, especially when you and your spouse have children together. Some parents dread telling their children so much that they avoid it as long as possible. What they probably don’t realize is that even their youngest children can tell that something serious is happening with their parents, even if they may not have the words to express it. Your children need support and reassurance from both parents now more than ever.
Breaking the News of Divorce to Your Children
While this may be one of the most difficult conversations you have ever had, you owe it to your children to explain what is happening in an honest and age-appropriate manner. It is not necessary to burden them with the intimate details though. A simple explanation such as “Mom and Dad feel we can’t get along living together anymore and it would be better for you and your siblings to spend time with us separately.”
Some children may become anxious and think that they will be “divorced” from one parent or that they are to blame for their parent’s split. Assure them this isn’t the case and that both parents will continue to love and care for them no matter what. If the other parent has abandoned the family or is not safe to be around, explain as best you can that he or she has some problems that prevent being there right now. Assure your children it has nothing to do with their self-worth and that you will always be there and that you hope the other parent gets the appropriate help.
Explain What Will Change
A lot of anxiety that children experience about a pending divorce is a lack of understanding about how a divorce impact their lives. Let them know which parent is moving out and where he or she will live. If you have decided on a custody arrangement, explain that to them as well. It is also important to let them know what will remain the same, such as staying at the same school.
If possible, try to avoid subjecting your kids to too many changes all at the same time. For example, if moving or changing schools is necessary, try to delay it until they have accepted news of the divorce and adjusted to a new routine.
Expect Strong Emotions From Your Children
No matter the age of your children, your divorce from their other parent can feel like their entire world has shifted and they can’t do anything to stop it. Some kids may lash out in anger, often at the parent who feels the safest to them. Some kids may become profoundly sad and slip into a depression. Younger children may regress with their behavior, such as having toileting accidents or becoming more dependent on a parent instead of less. Encourage your children to openly express themselves. If they can’t do it with you for fear of hurting your feelings, arrange for short-term therapy.
The most helpful thing you can do as a parent is acknowledge your child’s feelings. Don’t tell them they’re wrong for feeling a certain way or that they’re too young to know what’s really happening. If they feel dismissed now, they’re less likely to confide in you in the future. You may discover that your children blame themselves for the divorce. If so, let them know a child is never to blame for adult problems.
How Does Divorce Affect Children?
There is no way to soft sell it, divorce is a personal crisis for everyone involved. When one spouse files to dissolve the marriage, the children need to understand that their relationship with their parents is not ending.
Common emotions experienced by children to divorce are anxiety, shock, anger, and disbelief. High levels of parental conflict are associated with poorer adjustment by children.
A University of Virginia survey found many of these emotions disappear by the end of the second year.
In the event that one parent refuses to encourage a close relation with the other parent, has some questionable moral fitness to raise a child, or is involved in drug and alcohol abuse, violence, domestic abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court will be notified and will reconsider the best interests of the child. Shared parental responsibility may then convert to sole parental responsibility.
This is unfortunate because children do best with both parents in their life.
Present Your Children a United Front if Possible
Whenever possible, family therapists recommend that parents should talk to their children about an upcoming divorce together. This means deciding what to tell them in advance and before any changes in living arrangements occur. Each parent should avoid blaming the other, even when serious issues like adultery have taken place. Keep the explanation simple and make sure the children know that both parents love them.
Take Care of Yourself Too
It’s only natural that strong emotions will arise when going through a divorce. However, you should not share these with your children. Make the time to see friends as often as possible and seek therapy yourself if you feel stuck in sadness, resentment, or anger. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise will help you whether this storm as well.
Contact Spencer Law with Divorce, Custody or Child Support Disputes
Crystal Collins Spencer, Attorney at Law, is a skilled Florida family law attorney and has more than three decades of experience representing the interests of divorcing clients in the Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola, and Sandestin areas of Florida as well as the surrounding communities. Please contact our Fort Walton Beach office (850) 200-4652, our Pensacola office (850) 912-8080, or our Sandestin office (850) 424-6683 to request your free initial case evaluation or by using our website contact form.