Divorce doesn't just hurt the adults – it hurts your little ones too. Whether the divorce is a separation from hell, or an amicable one, your kids are sure to be affected by it, and often in unpredictable ways.
Luckily, you can have a lot of impact on how your children perceive your separation. Here are a few tips on what to do to get your kids through divorce as easily and painlessly as possible.
Don't dump your baggage on them
Kids are tougher than they seem, and especially in times of crisis. They can take a lot on themselves and can be a real source of support once you and your partner are separated. However, they're human, just like us, and they'll break if you dump too much of your baggage on them.
Kids see the separation, and they see that their parents are unhappy. However, if you keep pressuring them with your emotions, they'll start to reflect your state of mind, as they won't know what to do. This can have a varied psychological impact on children and, in the worst-case scenario, grow overly rebellious, cold and uncaring toward you. To prevent that, keep your hardship for yourself as long as you can, seek professional help, or help from a friend until the separation is finished.
Don't drag the children in the middle
Unfortunately, we see these things often when it comes to marital disputes, even in functional families. The parents start fighting among themselves, then bring children in the middle, forcing them to pick sides. They'll say things like "Look what your mother/father did/made me do" and "Your mother/father is the reason things are like this" and similar quips that make children confused, anxious and scared.
This is something to be avoided at all costs. Your problem is with your partner, and you're divorcing them, not your children. This is an adult matter, so leave them out of it, as the kids might come to resent you very quickly if you put them in situations like these.
Keep a civil tongue
Do NOT badmouth your partner. The worst thing you can do when you're divorcing or have already divorced is to talk badly about your partner in front of your children. Yes, you might achieve the desired effect and estrange your kids from your partner, but kids grow up, they grow wiser and smarter every year. Soon, they'll see through your lies, resentment and spite, and they'll resent you even more for exacerbating facts or straight up fabricating them.
Talk to your kids
Communication is key, and not knowing how to talk to your kids about divorce can have a huge impact on their understanding of it. If you do not communicate with your children about the divorce and about their feelings tied to it, they will start feeling alienated from you. Children tend to bottle up their feelings so as not to upset you, as they see you're already hurting, and those feelings can lead to negative behaviour. This is why you need to keep open about the process and allow your kids to express their feelings and thoughts about the separation. Do not judge their feelings, simply listen and explain the situation. And don't try to sugar-coat the separation – tell them straight how it is, they'll definitely feel like you're holding out on them.
Be cool, collected, calm and kind
So often we see separations where partners are extremely hostile to one another. Indeed, the divorce can bring out the worst in people, as they lash out due to feeling anguished and betrayed. However, these feelings will reflect on your children, and they'll become even more confused and scared.
One thing to remember, though kids see a lot, they don't see everything and they don't understand everything about their parents. Your children might think your differences aren't as big as they seem, and that they're no ground for a separation, and cannot grasp the entirety of the situation. Seeing their Mum and Dad at each other's throats all of a sudden will no doubt scare and confuse them. So, if you're going through a divorce, try to be as civil and as kind as humanly possible, or the sake of your children, if not for the sake of your partner.
Your kids' needs come first
Let's face it – joint custody is sometimes impossible to achieve. When going through a separation, you must put your kids' needs first, rather than claiming them out of spite or out of love. If you're moving away, if your spouse is moving away, if you don't have the financial means to support them, if your spouse doesn't have the means to support them, if your relationship was rock to begin with, you might need to relinquish some of the custody or take up more responsibilities. If seeing your kids every other weekend is what'll work best for the children, then try to set your personal feelings aside, and take the deal. Taking your children out of their school and away from their friends just so you can have them more around will have more adverse effects than positive ones.
Finally, when facing a separation, it's always best to hire a lawyer. Hiring a professional firm, like Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, will not only help your transition, but it will ensure your children's best interests are taken into accounts as well. Divorce attorneys not only help with litigation and mediation, but they'll look out for your children and family as well, and they'll make sure that both you and them get the best treatment possible.
All in all, a divorce is a stressful situation for both adults and children. However, there are many ways to mitigate the impact it has on your kids, and on yourself. Remember, a little kindness and open communication channels will come a long way in resolving the difficulties that arise from separation.