If you are getting a divorce, you won’t really need other people to tell you that it’s going to be tough for your child. You would feel it in your bones – children will usually have it worse. As children are growing, they thrive well if the environment is stable and consistent. If some areas of their lives are in turmoil, it could affect everything else and their outlook can change enormously. You can expect them to be one of those ‘troubled children’ pretty easily if they don’t get the help they need during chaotic times like your divorce. The worst thing is that they actually have nothing to do with the divorce – it’s mainly a thing between you and your spouse – and yet, the children are the ones who are affected the most. Your relationship with your spouse may be flawed beyond repair so you’ve decided to go with divorce, but if you are not careful, this can impact your children’s lives forever.
When You Decide To Get a Divorce
Since you have already decided to go through with the divorce, the best you can do is to keep it as ‘friendly’ as possible and helping your children deal with it the best you can. You and your spouse can also try to make the divorce as quick as possible so that your children won’t have to stay in an unstable period for too long. The quicker you can finalize your divorce, the faster they would be able to cope and move on. You too.
The worst mistake you can make is believing that your children will be resilient enough to handle the divorce and that they will naturally bounce back. You and your spouse will probably receive encouragements from friends and colleagues to attend counseling sessions, therapy, meditation and other stuff that could help you cope. What about the children and the emotional setbacks they experience due to the divorce? They don’t always ‘bounce back’ naturally. Are you going to take risks? Your children could be emotionally scarred for life.
Helping Your Child Cope With the Divorce
There are ways you can help your children maintain their emotional state before the divorce. Your children do not have to suffer emotional scars for the rest of their lives. How can you make sure your children are happy and well-adjusted despite the challenges of the divorce?
- Keep legal matters between you and your spouse alone.
Learn not to discuss divorce matters with your child. There might already be temporary orders that keep you from doing that, but even if there are no such orders, never discuss divorce matters with your child. Even if your child appears mature, he or she might not be able to understand the concept of a divorce the way adults do. If you are looking for a confidant during the divorce, do not go to your child for that. It might feel convenient and even natural, but it is likely to affect your child negatively. You can confide to friends and even therapists instead.
- Reassure your child again and again that you and your spouse love him or her no matter what happens.
Parents naturally love unconditionally, and you know it well. However, children may not be able to understand that concept fully since their emotional development is still ongoing. Children can feel easily vulnerable during the divorce. They might even feel guilty or unloved just because you and your co-parent are separating. During the entire difficult period of the divorce, sit down with your child as often as possible and tell him or her that you love him or her wholeheartedly. Encourage your spouse to do so as well.
- Keep as much stability and consistency as possible
While a divorce is generally chaos for the entire family, it doesn’t have to mean that there will be zero stability and consistency. You can minimize the changes so that your child’s environment can remain stable. Of course, permanent changes are imminent due to the divorce but you and your spouse can try to minimize the changes and make most of it as gradual as possible so that your child can deal with it at a slower pace. You can do so by initially allowing your child to remain in the same school he or she has always attended and by allowing your child to remain at your marital home as well. You can also make sure your child continuously participates in extracurricular activities he or she has been into prior to the divorce.
- Maintain your child’s relationships.
It would be difficult for you but extra-helpful for your child if your child can maintain relationships with members of your spouse’s family. Cutting your child off from family members because you have gotten divorced could have a huge negative impact on your child’s emotional state. Maintaining relationships, on the other hand, could help your child establish a routine and a sense of stability. Since you and your spouse will co-parent after the court finalizes your separation, it would be in your child’s best interest if you can start co-parenting even while the case is ongoing. It will help you get used to it, and your child will feel a smaller shift in his or her world.
The bad news is that it’s probably going to be tough for both you and your spouse because you’re likely to be at the peak of your anger. Even if you hate your spouse, you love your child unconditionally and your spouse surely does too. It might feel impossible to do, but you can make it work.