Divorce can be a complicated, involved process for any family. But when you have kids in the mix, it can become even more complex. You want your children to feel secure and loved throughout the process, but how do you do that? It’s essential to keep in mind that divorce isn’t just about two adults ending their relationship; it’s also about two parents continuing to raise good kids as co-parents. With a positive approach and some thoughtful planning, you can minimize the emotional impact of divorce on your children.
Be Conscious of Your Words and Actions
How you talk about your spouse (or soon-to-be ex) will shape how your child sees them. Even if you have nothing nice to say, try not to badmouth them in front of your children. If they ask questions, provide honest answers without going into too much detail or speaking disparagingly about their other parent. You may disagree with your spouse on many things—but never let your child see or hear those disagreements. They must know both parents are respected and valued by one another despite the decision to end the marriage. Remember, how you talk about your soon-to-be ex isn’t just in the moment. Those words will follow your family for a lifetime.
Focus on Creating New Routines
Divorce is often a catalyst for change, so your children must be given stability during this transition period. Establishing new routines will help create a sense of security and comfort during an otherwise uncertain time in their lives. Perhaps these new rituals include having dinner at a specific time each night, having a regular bedtime routine established with both parents present if possible, or duplicated in each household if living separately. Of course, the age of your children will dictate the appropriate practices. Regardless of their age, doing so will create a sense of normalcy while making sure everyone knows what to expect from day-to-day life after divorce.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Divorce can take an emotional toll on all parties involved, especially for children feeling (or being put in the position) caught in the middle. Take time out periodically throughout the process to check in with them and ensure they feel safe expressing themselves honestly without fear of retribution from either parent. Listen with care when they speak but also be mindful not to put too much pressure on them —your children may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings at first. Still, over time they should open up as long as you stay patient and understanding towards them no matter what happens during these conversations.
Often parents fall into the trap of using their children to communicate between the two of them. Think of “tell your mother I’ll pick you up at eight…” At the onset, this can appear harmless but spiral downward into something far more damaging, like “tell your mother there’s no way I’m paying for you to go to camp this summer.” All parenting discussions should be held directly between the two parents. They are your children, not a messenger service. If you and your ex (or soon-to-be ex) have difficulty communicating, seek outside help to find something that works for you. Some services like ourfamilywizard.com monitor communications, or you can limit everything that is not an emergency to a specific time you speak or text each week.
Recognize your patterns need to change
There’s a reason you are getting divorced. Often, part of that is ingrained communication patterns. Remember the definition of insanity? It’s when you keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. Stop that. Understand that as you shape your new life, you can reshape how you communicate with your ex. Think through how you want this to look and consciously watch your tone of voice, use facts, and be brief and direct. Intentionally reshaping will benefit your children more than you can imagine.
Divorce doesn’t have to be traumatic for everybody involved—especially not for children, who are often vulnerable during this emotionally charged period in adult life. Taking conscious steps before, during, and after the divorce can increase the likelihood of children coming out of the process more whole. Consider being mindful of words around kids, establishing new routines, and keeping communication open and direct between both parents. Divorcing couples can work together to ensure that their divorce truly is child-centered as you reshape your family.