Everyone’s wedding day holds out the promise of a wonderful life together, til death do you part. However, statistics show that between 40 and 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce. No matter how carefully you plan, a hostile divorce is particularly traumatic for the children.
No matter what the age of your children, according to the American Psychological Association, there are three things you can do to help your children adjust after a divorce. If both parents commit to good parenting techniques and making sure that the children maintain a relationship with both parents, then all that is left is to try and minimize the conflict that the children are exposed to.
Here are some suggestions to help your children navigate through a contentious divorce:
Children get anxious and worry just like adults do. So, if you have big news to share, make sure that you have certainty before you share with the children. Don’t tell them you are thinking about getting separated or divorced -- make sure the event is definitely going to happen. The children need to be on a need-to-know basis.
If you’re planning on making a big announcement, also plan on spending time with the children after the fact. There’s nothing worse than dropping a bomb and then rushing off to an appointment or engagement, leaving the children to deal with the wreckage. Now is a time to be around the kids and try to allay any fears or concerns they have.
Communicating with children doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep things simple. Your goal is to be as honest and straightforward as you can, keeping in mind the age of your children and their maturity level.
The children’s primary concern will be how your divorce will affect them, so be prepared to answer questions and have concrete answers.
When you’re around your children, do your best to avoid the blame game. No matter how ugly the divorce is or how angry you are towards your ex, venting around the children puts them in the middle and creates an extremely uncomfortable situation.
Likewise, don’t leave legal papers out where your children could potentially read them. Avoid having conversations about divorce related issues where your children can overhear. If there is going to be a home visit by a court professional to determine custody, don’t exaggerate the importance with the children and don’t coach them what to say.
Divorce can be very scary for children and can bring out behaviors that are unusual. Child psychologists say to look out for anger, attention seeking behaviors including misbehavior, or regression with sleep or toilet training behaviors. It’s important to be rock steady for the children because they will have ups and downs, especially if the divorce is hostile.
Along those lines, in order to be a great parent for your children during a hostile divorce, it’s important to take care of yourself. Keep the kids on as close to a consistent, regular schedule as possible, and have a support network that can help you with this on those days you need to take a break. Don’t be afraid to talk to a therapist, especially if the divorce is becoming increasingly emotionally aggressive.
For more advice about how to help children through a hostile divorce, here is an article by an LCSW that addresses some key issues.
If you are dealing with a hostile divorce, Family Matters Law Group can help. With years of experience helping families across the metro Atlanta area, we are ready to hear your story and fight hard for you. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.