|My Regards by Reese Phillips|
Top 10 Ways to Help Your Kids Through Your Divorce
June 5, 2012
- Don't put the kids in the middle - Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal discussions away from the kids. Confine negativity and blame about your ex to counseling sessions or conversations with other adults. The most important thing to remember is little ears are listening even when you aren't talking directly to them. If they are near, you should assume they can hear you.
- Keep each parent involved in the kids' lives - You are divorcing your ex, not your kids. Cutting a child out of the other parent's life is using the child as a weapon. Children need quality time with both parents. It's unfair to restrict their access to one of their parents, no matter how willing the children may seem at the time. The short term gratification you get from hurting your ex isn't worth the long term damage you to do your children.
- Tell your kids what to expect - Children need to know how this is going to affect their lives. It's comforting to know what to expect like where they will live or if they are going to change schools. It's best to keep things as consistent as possible and minimize disruptions to their routine. Be honest with these conversations even when you don't know the answer yet.
- Encourage honesty and verbalizing their feelings - Your children may not feel comfortable telling you how they feel about this because they blame you or don't want to hurt your feelings. Don't over react to their statements even when they bother you. It's more important that your children are letting their feelings out. Suppressing feelings can have unpleasant consequences.
- Watch for signs of stress - Children may not verbalize their feelings. Stress may manifest itself in changes in eating habits, problems with sleeping, anger, acting out, school performance, or withdrawal. Even if it doesn't seem to be related to the divorce, it probably is. You need to be aware of any changes in your child's behavior and react to it appropriately.
- Don't be afraid to get help - This is likely the hardest thing you have ever had to do. It is certainly the hardest thing your children have ever experienced. There is nothing wrong with needing help. Your kids could benefit from counseling or a support group for children of divorce. You aren't failing them or yourself if you need help. Don't be afraid to ask for it.
- Tell your children it's not their fault - Children tend to blame themselves for everything. Let them know that the divorce is an adult decision having nothing to do with them or their behavior.
- Don't use your children as messengers - You and your ex need to find a way to communicate regarding the children without involving them in the process. Do not ask your child to deliver or obtain information from the other parent. Do not write notes and ask your child to hand it to the other parent. Kids don't want to take sides. Being responsible for the communication process puts them in the middle.
- Keep your children in mind when making life choices - You may want to move as far away from your ex as you can get but that decision will hurt your children. You may also feel like you have earned the right to move in with a new partner but this can affect your children in unexpected ways. Blended families are not like nuclear families. That magnitude of a decision should be made carefully and over a great deal of adjustment time. Before making a decision about your life, think about how it will affect your kids. They will have to live with the consequences of your life choices whether they want to or not.
- If the system fails your children, never stop fighting to help them - Your ex may have made poor choices for your children or they may be in harm's way when they are with your ex. As we have stated in previous posts, the court system is overwhelmed and frequently makes mistakes that negatively affect your kids. The guardian ad litem is there to help your kids but only you and your children know what it's like to live with your ex. The guardian only sees the public persona that your ex presents. They don't live with your ex or know what happens behind closed doors. You should never stop trying to help your child when they have been put in a physically or emotionally damaging situation.