HELPING YOUR CHILDREN COPE WITH YOUR DIVORCE
It is one of life’s many ironies that you, the divorcing parent, are called upon to be the best parent you possibly can be at a time in your life when you are the most stressed and feeling under siege. There will be times when you will fail with your children by losing your temper, over-reacting, brushing off a child who needs lots of extra attention when you are exhausted, etc. If you really “lose it” with your child, apologize. Then forgive yourself. You will recover and so will your child.
Here are a few guidelines that may be helpful to you as you move through the divorce process:
- Let them know the divorce is not their “fault.”
- Reassure them that both parents still love them.
- Spend as much time with your children as possible.
- Listen carefully to your children. You will usually be able to see how a two-year-old or six-year-old child is feeling. It may be much more difficult with a teenager. You may need to be spending a lot more time waiting for the moment when your teen is ready to talk.
- Keep to your family’s schedule and rituals as much as possible. If you didn’t have family rituals before the divorce, this is a good time to begin. A family ritual can be something as simple as having dinner together every Thursday evening with everyone cooking and cleaning up, watching a favorite television program together and talking about it, having breakfast together every Sunday morning, reading aloud.
- Allow your children to “take sides.” As gratifying as it may feel to you to have your child “on your side,” you compromise your relationship with your child by encouraging alliances.
- Try to compensate for the divorce by buying your children things or allowing them to do things you normally would not allow. Your children need you and your time, not things and not lax guidance.
- Allow them to harbor fantasies of you and your soon-to-be former spouse reconciling. This just makes it harder for your children to adjust to the inevitability of your divorce.
CO-PARENTING AND DIVORCE
You have a lot of control over the amount of harm your children will endure because of your divorce. Research shows that it isn’t so much the divorce itself that injures children but rather the amount of the conflict and anger that surrounds the divorce that is so harmful to children.
You and your spouse can determine a lot about the long-term consequences of the divorce for your children by what you say and do. The confusion, anger, sadness and fear that many children feel can be dramatically reduced when you as parents:
- Learn to think and act positively toward each other in your roles as co-parents of your children.
- Work on skills for communicating effectively with each other about your children.
- Plan for how you will handle the holidays and events (children’s birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations and other important events) that are a part of being co-parents.
- Understand that the research shows that it’s vital to children to have both parents involved in their lives as much as possible.
Mediation allows you to develop and practice the skills of co-parenting during the divorce mediation process. You will be a co-parent with your spouse for years beyond your children’s eighteenth birthdays.
By learning how to co-parent effectively, you can create a “two-house family” that will give your children a sense of security, safety and love.
For an appointment or more information you can call my office at (949) 495-4700 or send me an email.