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Separation from the Kids – How You Can Make it Better
As tough as your divorce is on you, it is even tougher on your children. Especially for young children who may not fully understand what is happening, seeing one of their parents move out and then adjusting to a schedule where they spend time with mom and dad separately can easily be the greatest challenge of their young lives.
As a result, when going through a divorce, it is critically important that you consider your children’s needs along with your own.
Here are five tips for helping your kids cope with their parents’ separation in a divorce:
Don’t play the blame game.
Blaming your spouse for your divorce or trying to convince your children to “take your side” can have damaging consequences. While it is important to be honest with your kids, you should avoid saying critical or damaging things about your children’s mom or dad. If your kids ask why you are getting divorced, instead of saying, “Your father was a lying, cheating scoundrel,” say something like, “We just didn’t love each other anymore.”
Reinforce that the divorce is about you, not them.
When something goes wrong, children often think they are part of the problem. So, when going through a divorce, it is important to reinforce that your divorce is about you, not them. Keep telling your children that you love them, and acknowledge changes that affect them to show that you care. While it can be easy to get wrapped up in your divorce, take the time to listen to your children and encourage them to express their feelings, too.
Avoid visible conflicts in front of your children.
If you and your spouse have heated arguments or are prone to raising your voices when fighting, only address your disagreements when your children are not around. This applies both during the divorce and afterward. Unless you can do it in private, before or after dropping your children off for a visit is not the time to address late child support payments or other issues.
Establish routines and build familiarity.
As part of your divorce, you and your spouse will establish a parenting plan that determines when you spend time with your children and the decisions you will each be able to make on your children’s behalves. Children tend to find comfort in routine, so you should stick to your plan as much as possible. Consider using daycare or camps for trial separations while your divorce is pending, and avoid handoffs when your children are typically tired or hungry. Also, remember that even something as small as saying, “I’ll see you soon,” can have a dramatic impact for a child.
Take care of yourself.
How you feel can affect how you act, and this can affect your children. Even if you think you’re keeping it all in, children can often tell when their parents aren’t their normal selves. If you are anxious, sad, or depressed, getting the help you need can be important for your children’s sake as well.