How can I help our children during the divorce?
A question often raised by clients is how and when they should tell their children about their decision to divorce, as well as what they should say. One of the best indicators to children adjusting well to your decision to divorce is how you and your spouse, as the children’s parents, present the situation to the children. For example, “Mommy and I are not getting along and we have decided to live in separate houses, but you need to know that this does not affect how much we love you. We will always be your parents and love you the most!”
While it is true that your children will likely always remember the moment they learn that you and the other parent are getting a divorce, if you and your spouse can present it as a “safe change”, your children will take their cues from their parents to understand or know how to react to the news. It’s always a good idea to consult with a child therapist for recommendations and input about how to share the information with your children in a child-centered way, age-appropriate for the needs for the children. In some families where there is a large age-span of the children, it is best to tell the children in separate/individual meetings. If possible, you and your spouse should tell the children jointly to show the children a sense of unity.
It is crucial to your children’s well-being that you and your spouse both tell the children you love them, that it will not change, reassure them that the divorce is not their fault, and support them in whatever feelings that they feel or want to express, including anger or sadness. Do not ask or imply to your children that the need to pick sides. Remember, your children, being the child of you and your spouse, feel that “they” are 50% one parent and 50% the other parent. If you send a message that one parent is bad, ill, mentally unwell or the like, you are telling your children that 50% of the child is not okay or accepted by you.
Do not place your children in the position of asking them to pick sides. Don’t let them know about adult conflict you are experiencing and finally, do not allow the children to serve as messengers. It is only natural that the parents will react to information being passed by a child messenger at some point. When this inevitably happens, the child will feel that they are being blamed for passing on the information. Do not allow your anger toward the other parent to outweigh your love, care and protection of your child.
How can you help your children adjust to the idea of the divorce going forward?
Make certain you and the other parent provide and model consistency, security and stability through both, your words and actions. Children will frequently ask the same questions to both of their parents to check the “message received” and they will be left confused if they do not receive consistent messages or responses. Remain focused on collaborating and communicating with the other parent regularly to make sure you and your spouse are presenting a unified front to your children
Your children can successfully survive- and even thrive- through the divorce process, but it is important that you retain legal counsel who is going to give you child-centered guidance and focus on the needs of your children as they are strategizing the steps in your case. To consult with our child-focused family law attorneys at Pingel Family Law, please call us today to set-up your consultation (816) 208-8130.
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