Children are sensitive, intuitive beings, who probably felt the tumult at home long before the divorce papers were filed. Now that you’ve decided to part ways with your partner, it is up to both of you to guide your children through this process in a way that limits the trauma and cuts down the drama. We’ve compiled some tips to help you navigate this process in a way that will make your kids feel stable, safe and loved.
A shocking few (5%) of divorcing couples sit down with their kids to explain what divorce means, why it is happening, and how it will affect their lives. This lack of communication lets your kids create their own stories, and believe that they are somehow responsible for the divorce. Have a family meeting. Set an intention of being neutral, transparent and informative about how things will go in the future. Open the floor for questions. At all times it is vital to remember that you are teaching and modeling what healthy relationships look like, even when those relationships are in transition.
Think of your children as miniature spies. When things are in flux, they’ll be poking around for evidence and information to fill in the gaps. Keep legal papers, emails, and text messages out of sight. Don’t engage in negative or emotional conversations about your former partner when your kids are within earshot.
Pay your child support. Follow your parenting plan. Perform pickups and drop-offs on time. By taking full responsibility for the things you’ve agreed to, whether it’s paying for dance lessons or taking the kids on Thanksgiving, honoring your agreements in full will limit the tension with you and your ex and create an sense of stability for your kids.
You are a grown up. Find grown up allies and let your kids be kids. Trash talking your ex will not make your children love you more, or love the other parent less. It will make them feel unsafe with both of you and guilty for the love they feel, the fun they have and the connection to the other parent. While the impulse may be strong at times, fight it. Instead, try to do the opposite. Tell your kids what you appreciate about your ex. Encourage them to have strong bonds with both parents. Let them know that you are happy that they are so loved.
If you want to be at your best for your kids, you have to be at your best. No matter how selfish it might feel, this is a time to put self-care at the forefront. Take time to foster your own mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Deal with your issues through therapy, meetings or seeking the self-help resources you need. Take time to breathe, eat well, exercise and socialize. Engage in activities that bring you joy and a fresh outlook on life. And then share that with your kids. Let them be excited for you and inspired by your attitude. By demonstrating that you are responsible for your happiness, you are teaching them that they too can rise above and thrive no matter what curveballs life throws their way.
Whenever possible, try to maintain the “known” in your children’s’ lives. If you can, try to keep them in the same neighborhood and school where their friends and teachers are. Maintain the same after-school activities and childcare professionals, and encourage continued quality time with extended families on both sides. Creating stability by maintaining the familiar will make it easier for them to adjust to the inevitable changes.
Instead of taking that frantic trip to Ikea to make sure the kiddos have beds, try taking some time to dream and plan. What color do you want your new room to be? What are the things you love to have around? Is there a new pet in this house? How should we introduce ourselves to the new neighbors? Where’s the best playground around here? The best ice cream? What kinds of things do we want to do together here that we didn’t do in the old house? Divorce, while heartbreaking and traumatic is also a fresh start, full of unlimited potential. Let your kids in on the dreaming, planning and exploring and do your best to create good times and memorable adventures along the way.
Most parents (though they won’t admit it) would love to have more free time without the kids to live their lives and remember who they are. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying the days you spend without your kids. Do try to take care of that take-home work and your tedious errands, so that when your kids are with you, you can really be with them. You don’t have to make every moment an adventure, shower them with gifts, or make elaborate plans for every moment you’re together. But you should do your best to be present, available and communicative, and make sure that they know they are loved.
Inevitably, you and your ex will move on to dating and embrace new loves in your lives. It is ideal for both parties to agree to ground rules regarding at what point you will introduce the children to your new person. What you don’t want to do is create a revolving door of people your kids get attached to and then lose as you move on. If you are having adventures, your children needn’t have that information. In the best-case scenario, your kids will meet someone new, when that someone reaches the status of “significant other”. The goal, of course, if for your children to have two sets of healthy, adoring parents to support and guide them as they grow and face the triumphs and challenges of their own lives.
If you are considering divorce, reach out to Center for Divorce Solutions. The mediator will help ensure that parents are able to effectively and directly communicate their needs and arrive at mutually beneficial agreements for their entire family. Contact us today.
Leslie was so thurough and helpful in the meditation process. Her expertise definitely shows in her work and time management. The process of divorce hurts but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Leslie was terrific. She was very clear and concise and explained all of the details we needed to know in a very straightforward manor. My ex and I were able to use her mediation services in a reasonable amount of time and complete our divorce and parenting plan without the use of expensive lawyers. She also worked with us around our busy schedules and need for babysitters to help us accomplish our goals in the time frame we needed. I would recommend her highly.
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Knowledgeable, fair and comprehensive. Leslie Hoffman worked with me and my wife to figure out how to talk through difficult choices for divorce. Should you desire a reasonable way to navigate a separation or divorce, Leslie Hoffman provides an excellent resource for you.
Leslie did great work and was very professional with both my husband and I during a very difficult process. She demonstrated knowledge of the system, displayed patience, and an unbiased opinion. Leslie handled herself with dignity and grace in the presence of an incident of being accused of conspiracy along with an attack on her personal and professional integrity by my husband for simply answering a question I posed regarding marital assets. The accusations in no way reflected the her ethical demeanor and she responded with concern and willingness to explain the entire story in effort to clear up confusion. She articulated herself and left no questions unanswered and responded promptly to my husbands accusations. I am grateful for her presence through a trying experience and highly recommend her services.
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