A couple goes through a lot during the process of a divorce. No matter how hard you work to save your relationship, oftentimes, marriage gets to the point where divorce is the only alternative left. It is better for some couples to part ways instead of continuing to make each other’s life miserable. Unfortunately, divorce doesn’t come without implications.
It has a monumental effect on the family as a whole, and especially on the children. Divorce can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. It can create deep insecurities in the minds of the children, which can affect them for the rest of their lives. But that does not mean that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
With patience and empathy, the complexities of divorce can be navigated in a relatively peaceful manner. It is possible to create a safe space for your kids that will allow them to process the disruption of their daily routines and deal with the grief and dismay they are feeling.
The following recommendations can help parents to make sure that their children can manage and cope with the new reality of their family without suffering long-term negative effects from the experience.
1. Be honest and transparent
This is probably one of the toughest things for parents to do. But no matter how difficult it is to break the news of divorce to your children, it must be done, and it should be done together. Both parents must be present when conveying to their children that they will not be living together anymore.
Start by laying out everything that will affect their day-to-day lives, like a change in residency, for instance. There is one, absolutely crucial thing to keep in mind. While conveying this information, you must stay neutral and not get carried away.
Children are emotionally sensitive and can easily catch anger and frustration in your tone and facial expressions. Parents must manage their inner turmoil and talk it out among themselves in advance. It does help to prepare beforehand. Parents should discuss what they want the kids to know and the right way of conveying it to them.
This is easier said than done. It is likely that one or both of the parents are experiencing feelings of strong disappointment and resentment towards the other. Despite this, the parents must try to overcome those feelings or at least shield the kids from witnessing any of it.
2. Make sure they know it is not their fault
It is completely plausible for the children to feel responsible for what’s going on. Kids often experience guilt and associate the causality of divorce with themselves. They might also wishfully think that there is something that they can do to change the circumstances.
Therefore, parents should let the kids know that it’s not their fault and convince them of it. Parents must express the need to move on from their current relationship as honestly and empathetically as they can. It must be communicated in a clear yet compassionate way, so that the children will understand the true motivations that are driving their parents towards divorce. Not all the details are necessary for them to know, but a little bit of clarity can go a long way in helping the kids cope with the divorce.
It will make them understand that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it from happening. It will allow them to gradually accept the situation. The most important thing is for both parents to reaffirm their love and affection for the kids. Let them know how much they are loved and cared for. Also, reassure them that no matter how many changes the divorce brings about, their well-being is the top priority for both the parents.
3. Be prepared for the kids’ response
Sometimes it takes a while for the kids to accept the reality of their folks getting a divorce. It is completely normal for children to occasionally burst out their anger and disappointment. However, parents must hold their hands and walk them through these hard times. The kids need to realize that all their feelings are justified and they are allowed to feel them.
Children must be encouraged to overcome these feelings through overwhelming love and affection on behalf of their parents. It may be hard to show patience, especially when parents are likely going through a hard time themselves. But parents must prioritize children’s grief over their own. Kids, especially teenagers, may stop communicating with anyone and may retreat from expressing themselves.
But it is the responsibility of the parents to make the children feel comfortable enough to be able to share their fears and anxiety. Instead of expecting children to understand the situation, parents must be open to listening to what the children have to say and must try to understand what they are going through.
4. Avoid conflict at all costs
Kids living in households with parental conflicts are adversely affected, regardless of whether the couple in those homes are divorced or not. Conflict is not good for kids. Putting them in the middle of fights might compromise their self-esteem and confidence.
Often kids experience cognitive dissonance while witnessing conflict, as they are left to comprehend and decide upon something that they do not completely understand. One or both parents can paint a different picture of the situation based on their own point of view. However, children are not yet capable of drawing inferences and may get cajoled into siding towards one parent over the other.
Over everything else, parents must strive to not put their children in a position where they have to choose between the two parents. It takes an emotional toll on the children. It also messes with their capability of orienting themselves into the world and distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore, regardless of how tough it is for the parents to get along, they should still try to avoid conflict under all circumstances.
5. Don’t stand in the way of your partner and your kid
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Both parents must allow their soon-to-be-ex to maintain the same level of affection and closeness with the children that he/she had before. It is vital for the kids to feel that even if their parents are no longer together, they are still both going to be there for them.
This is especially true in the initial stages of the divorce, where everything changes so quickly and kids struggle to adjust to the new order of things. Letting anger or grief interfere with the relationship between the kids and their other parent can be extremely harmful to everyone involved.
Parents have to let go of their misgivings and frustrations, putting the needs of their children ahead of their own emotions. The belittling of one parent by the other can have negative effects on the children. The aim must be to try and keep a respectful indifference towards the other spouse so that the children do not sense the bitterness and become influenced by it.
You can read more about co-parenting by following this link.
6. Carve a new path forward
Divorce brings a lot of significant changes to the lives of everyone in the family. The kids will also encounter major differences in their routines. They are likely to miss the old family traditions that they had become accustomed to. The parents will need to figure out a new path forward, where the kids might find new activities and events to engage in.
These new traditions should be a way for them to transition into their new life with some familiarity. The hows and whens are for the parents to decide mutually. But both parties must agree on establishing some new ways of interacting and engaging, so that the kids may still feel a part of one familial unit.
7. Divorce is not the end of everything, it’s a new beginning
The best way you can help the children cope with divorce is by coping-well yourself. If parents are troubled and rattled by the divorce, they will not be able to support their kids in the way they should. But how do you cope with a divorce? Mainly by detaching yourself from it. Many people struggle to manage and recuperate from a divorce because they take it as a personal failure and an indication of weakness.
However, more often than not, divorce is an inevitable event which neither party has much control over. Personal desire to make things work does not necessarily manifest into a happy ending. Unlike the professional sphere where personal competence drives success, relationships do not work in the same cut and dry fashion.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a relationship. This does not mean that you should keep blaming yourself or your former spouse for the rest of your life. Instead, energy should be focused on things that you do have some control over, like the handling of the divorce and building a life after divorce.
Divorce is undoubtedly one of the hardest challenges that life can throw at us. People find themselves lost at sea when it comes to navigating the dark waters of life after a divorce. When a couple breaks-up, the above tips can help in keeping a family together.
The main thing to remind yourself is that the night is always darkest just before the dawn. And just like the good times didn’t last for long, this too shall pass.