After you break the news of your divorce to your children, there are still many factors that must be taken into consideration when preparing for the future. At a time like this, there may not be many things that you and your ex-spouse completely see eye to eye on. Yet despite your discrepancies, I’m sure there is one thing that you two can reach an agreement on—and that is how to prioritize your child’s best interest. As you plan and discuss the future, always take into account your children’s feelings.
Change of Lifestyle
There are a lot of aspects of both you and your child’s lives that are going to change following your divorce. You may have to move homes, holidays will be altered, and obviously, your relationship with your ex-spouse is not going to be the same as it was prior to the divorce.
Because these changes are a result of something perceived to be stressful and negative, we often interpret the changes as consequences rather than new beginnings. That being said, try to address these upcoming changes from a positive perspective. Of course, it may be difficult to break the news of selling your kid’s childhood home, however, instead of reminiscing on how upsetting leaving your current home will be, focus on the benefits of your new residence.
Although most of these changes may not be considered “exciting”, pick out the parts that are and elaborate. If your children constantly hear you complaining about the future, then they are likely to do the same. And with that kind of outlook, no one wins. On the other hand, if your children constantly hear you reassuring them about the positive changes that are in store, it will most definitely alleviate some of their anxiety.
The future will no doubt be different, but who’s to say that’s not a good thing?
Regardless of your children’s age, they are still going to want to be present in both of your lives. They are not only going to want to but also need to, spend time with both their mother and their father. So, recognize that.
I know there are cases where it may not be safe for your child to be around your ex-spouse. Maybe he/she is abusive, using drugs, or perhaps not mentally healthy to care for your child. However, in cases unlike those, it is important that children see both of their parents as much as possible, especially during the years that they are still developing. Don’t be selfish. Allow your child to spend time with their other parent.
Don’t ever put your kids in a position where they feel as though they must choose between the two of you. Don’t show up at Mom’s and say, “come sleep at Dad’s tonight,” especially if your child was already planning to sleep at Mom’s. Children do not enjoy letting down their parents, and putting pressure on them to pick between the two of you, even in a case as minor as a one night’s sleep, can cause them to feel very uncomfortable.
So, develop a plan and stick with it. If your kids see Mom every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they see Dad Tuesdays and Thursdays, don’t try to plan something with your child on a day they are with the other parent. This will become easier to adjust to with time, but forgoing a previously constructed plan may cause your child stress.
Support Your Child Throughout Your Divorce
Throughout life, children will need support. And at a time as confusing and delicate as this, children will especially need support. Although you are still trying to process your own thoughts, emotions, and feelings, try to be there for your child as much as possible. Your presence is so necessary at a time like this. Make sure to consider how your words may affect your children before offering advice that could possibly trigger negativity.
Offer them different forms of support. Propose therapy. Suggest inviting friends over. Recommend entertaining distractions. Take your child out to eat.
You don’t always need to actually offer advice. Occasionally, it may even be difficult to offer advice that is not biased towards how you feel about their other parent. Sometimes all your child may need is someone to listen. This will help them clear their heads.
And above all, your children need you to not only support them but also support their relationship with their other parent. Remember that although this person was a husband/wife to you, they are a father or a mother to your child. Your relationship with this person will differ drastically from your child’s relationship with that person.
Do Your Best to Live Separately During your Divorce
Attempt to separate as soon as possible. I’m not saying you need to hurry up and legally separate in the quickest fashion, but please try to physically separate. By this, I mean live in different homes. It can be so confusing and weird for you to break the news of divorce then continue living in the exact manner as beforehand.
Believe me, I know it’s not easy to just gather your belongings and find a new residence all in one day. But try to make that a priority. Get a hotel down the street. Sleep in your friend’s guestroom. Live with family nearby until you are able to work out a long term living arrangement.
I know in some cases, families have financial issues that restrict them from the option of having one parent immediately buy and live in a separate home. But, if you know that this will be a difficult factor to work out, consider postponing your conversation with your children. I’m not saying you have to wait until you have bought another perfectly furnished house before telling your kids you’re getting a divorce. Rather, keep this factor in mind from the very start. That way, you are able to protect your children’s emotional state.
The Age of Your Children Effects How You Talk to Them About Divorce
Your child’s age plays a huge role in how they will react, comprehend, and process your divorce. Obviously, you are going to sugarcoat information when talking to your five-year-old son about your split. And even then, he probably won’t understand “divorce” in general until he is older. But, a seventeen-year-old daughter may be more curious as to why you are getting a divorce, or how you came to this decision, but also what is going to occur down the road. You may need to provide older children with more information in order to grant them with closure and comfort for the future. Their means of support, living situation, and custody arrangements may differ from that of someone younger. Maybe your child is at college and is only home for summer. Maybe your child is actually old enough to decide when they want to spend time with each of their parents or who they want to live with. This is simply another reason to be there for your child in order to maintain a strong parent to child bond.
However, regardless of how old your child is, there are still certain things that they do not need to hear. Process your anger before communicating details to your child about your divorce. Spare them any more pain by sticking to the facts.
No matter their age, gender, or mindset on your situation, your children are going to be confused, angry, upset, and unsure—not just when they receive the news of your divorce, but also as they attempt to take in all of the new things thrown their way. Their familiarities are going to be crushed, and life is going to be altered. And as they unwind and struggle to embrace all this change, children need their parents. So, in the best interest of both you and your children, be there. They’ll be forever grateful for your support.