Children are more vulnerable than adults. They’re innocent, unsuspecting, and inexperienced in the world. A child’s innocence makes it hard for them to fully understand adult issues like divorce. A child doesn’t understand the dynamics of a relationship and therefore cannot understand why their parents can’t work it out. All they know is one minute everyone is living together and the next minute they’ve got two homes because their parents can’t get along.
A child watching their parents go through a divorce will experience an emotional rollercoaster of stress and anxiety, and might even blame themselves for the breakup. The following strategies can help protect your kids emotionally during a divorce:
1. Don’t move if you don’t absolutely have to
When you’re the one who has to move out of the family home, it’s tempting to move as far away as possible. You may not mind taking a long drive to visit or pick up your child, but your child probably will. Find a home close to your child’s school and friends. It’s the right thing to do for them. If you move too far away, your child will have to make new friends and they will miss the close friends they’ve already made.
Kids are easily distraught over moving
Psychology Today summarized a study that found frequent moves are tough on kids because moving disrupts important friendships. Moving is exceptionally hard on introverts and kids who tend toward anxiety and inflexibility. The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, noted that adults who moved frequently as kids had fewer high-quality relationships and scored lower in areas like wellbeing and life satisfaction. According to the study, traumatic moves are precipitated by family problems like a financial crisis or a divorce.
It’s hard enough to get used to living in two houses when one parent moves out, but what happens when either parent has to move again? With both parents living on their own, there’s a greater chance that each parent will need to move again in the near future.
2. Seek mediation as soon as possible
Mediation takes the fight out of the process and allows you to keep your child’s best interests in mind. Avoid stressful litigation with your former spouse by using mediation as soon as possible.
A family law attorney will help you mediate property distribution and find ways to make sure your children are happy before you sign the divorce papers. Taking care of these matters as quickly as possible prevents the stress of fighting later on.
3. Get family counseling
You may not want to be in the same room as your spouse, but family counseling is imperative. It’s in your child’s best interest to seek counseling as a family, even when you know you’re getting a divorce.
Custody battles can take a huge toll on children, especially when they’re sideswiped by having to move or being told they’ll only see one parent during visitation times.
Family counseling will help you find out how your child is feeling and what their concerns are. A divorce isn’t just between you and your spouse. Your child’s concerns need to be acknowledged and addressed as quickly as possible in a supportive environment.
4. Don’t talk negatively about your former spouse
It doesn’t matter if your former spouse is the biggest con artist in the world – don’t talk negatively about them around your kids. If your kids are older, it might be okay to talk with them openly and share your concerns on a general level, but talking trash about their other parent has lasting consequences.
For example, if you’re the mother and your child has a strong bond with their father, the more you put their father down, the more your child will resent you. They’ll feel defensive of their dad and they will get tired of hearing you say mean things. If your child doesn’t have a relationship with their father, they might take on your grievances as if they are their own.
Trash talking your former spouse to your kids can completely destroy their relationship.
Always do what’s best for your kids
Divorce is messy and stressful for everyone involved. Don’t forget that your kids see and hear everything that’s going on. Keep their best interests in mind, and let their interests guide your choices and actions. You may have to swallow your pride, but your kids will be better off.