Children take divorce hard. But children are resilient – they can bounce back from divorce and go on to lead thriving and successful lives. How quickly that happens can in large part depend on the parents’ behavior during and after the divorce process. Below are three tips to help you make this process easier for them:
- Let them know that it isn’t their fault.
Children can often feel (however unreasonable it may seem to adults) that they are the cause behind their parents divorce, and this is particularly so in cases where custody and visitation issues are contentious. Make sure that you and your spouse taking time to explain the divorce is not their fault and do so together if possible. Without divulging adult information, explain that changes may happen, such as housing, as well as daily and weekly schedules and holidays, but that both parents will still be in their lives as much as possible.
- Express to them that they are still your first priority.
Children need to hear and be shown that they are loved, and you can do that by taking the time to express it to them together and individually every chance that you get. Parents often feel compelled to ‘make it up’ to the children during divorce by lavishing them with expensive gifts or trips and excursions. This practice may ease a child’s, but its only temporary. Quality time spent with both parents who show daily love and support is key to their ability to cope.
- Be consistent with rules in both homes.
One of the areas children often experiment with in divorce is pitting parents against one another. For example, parent A may not allow weekday sleepovers at friends’ homes during the school year, but parent B may agree to it in order to garner favor with the children during a custody matter. When you fail to work together as co-parents and maintain similar rules and discipline in both households, the child (who needs and unknowingly craves stability and discipline) may grow to resent you for failing to provide the same level of care in your home that they’re shown in the other home, even if in the short term they gain. Work out a set of rules and standards with your co-parent. Approach disciplinary issues as a team. Even if you could not work together to save the marriage, you should still be able to work together to guide your child into becoming respectful, intelligent, and well rounded adults.