How to Help Your Children Cope with a Divorce
Last night I was at my mom's house with my three kids. We were all sitting around watching a movie after dinner and my ex and I were texting about the kids' schedule for Monday. I asked if he wanted to join us for the movie and to my surprise, he did. Three years ago when we were in the midst of our divorce, I never thought this would be possible in a million years. That said, I cannot begin to tell you how happy it made me that we could all share in this simple pleasure together as a family. For that reason, it is my pleasure to share this important post on how to help your children cope with divorce by guest blogger, Deborah Bankhead.
As hard as a divorce can be on the separating partners, it can be even harder on any children involved. As a parent, it’s up to you to soothe some of their turmoil.
Here are some tips to help you make the adjustment as easy as possible for everyone.
1. Let Them Keep Both Parents
You want your kids to feel as if they’re still part of one family--just spread out under two roofs.
Helping them maintain a relationship with your ex may not be what you want, but it is what’s best. Your kids really do need it.
You and your former spouse should both spend plenty of time with the kids. Sharing the responsibly of raising them isn’t a nice-to-have for either parent: it’s a must.
Note: Check out Leah Hadley’s Shared Parenting Plan Checklist and 17 Ways to Keep Your Kids Out of Your Divorce while you’re doing your research.
2. Leave Them out of the Drama
Your children aren’t soldiers in a conflict with your ex. Don’t make them feel like they must side with anyone. Letting them stay completely neutral in every respect will ease their transition to the new structure.
Here are some healthy habits you can form to help with this:
- Only say nice things about your ex around your kids.
- Don’t gossip about your ex.
- Never ask your kids to keep secrets from their other parent.
- Never use them as little messengers to communicate with your ex.
- Don’t try to hog them to yourself to “punish” your ex.
- Don’t compete with your ex to win favor. Even after a divorce, parenting is still a collaboration, not a competition.
3. Make Your Home a Safe Space
Kids can sometimes feel like they’ve betrayed you by spending time with your ex. Do everything you can to ward off that anxiety.
Your home should always be a sanctuary for your children. Don’t let them feel like they’re bringing the effects of the divorce along with them.
Always welcome them into a safe, cozy home, free from any negativity.
And don’t assume you know their feelings, either. Kids can be better than you might think at hiding insecurities. Go above and beyond to reassure them.
None of it is their fault, right? Your feelings toward your ex don’t affect your love for them. Nothing at all could ever affect your love for them.
You know all that, of course. Make sure they always do too. Make sure they believe it.
4. Let Them Be Kids
Divorce always comes with a whole slew of adult problems. That’s unavoidable, but you should leave those adult problems to the adults.
And your kids? Well, they should just keep right on being kids. Maintain their social life, play dates, sports, and more. These distractions are a great way to keep their thoughts away from doubt and sadness.
Don’t burden them with grownup issues or let them wallow in confusion. Fill their days and nights with good old-fashioned being-a-kid.
Childhood itself can be the best balm for any child’s concerns.
Deborah Bankhead is an Attorney at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Deborah believes compassion and patience are required of family law attorneys and she is a relentless advocate for families in crisis. In her spare time, Deborah volunteers to help teens interested in the legal field pursue their dreams and likes to hang out with her cat.
Related post: Co-Parenting Teens: Helping Teens Through Divorce
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