Divorce can be harder on your children than it is on you. Marital difficulties disrupt all relationships, and a failure to recognize your children’s feelings may set a negative pattern that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Talking to children about divorce is not easy, but the following suggestions may help you and your kids emerge from this difficult transitional period with an even stronger relationship.
- Maintain open lines of communication. Sit with your children at eye level and allow them to tell you about their feelings, resentments and/or confusion. Don’t dismiss their opinions, and don’t expect all emotional issues to be resolved at the end of one meeting. Speak to your spouse about how and when the divorce announcement will be made and try to do it together.
- Avoid loyalty battles. Children don’t need to know all the details of the breakup. Focus on how the divorce affects them. Use the term “we” instead of “I” to avoid blaming language, and allow your children to ask questions. Re-direct their why questions with responses that focus on respecting other people’s need to change, giving people freedom to work out their own issues, and the importance of not drawing them into your disagreements with your spouse.
- Minimize disruptions. Be an active listener. Turn off the television and cell phone and give your child your undivided attention. When making custody arrangements, do your best to create the least disruption possible in your children’s daily routines — even if this is inconvenient for you.
- Shift the focus to one-on-one relationships. Post-divorce relationships with children shift from the family togetherness to more one-on-one activities. Relish this opportunity to connect with your child in a whole new way.
- Follow up. For the children of divorce, divorce is a lifelong process. As they grow and mature, they have new questions and issues that need to be addressed. Be sure to check in with them from time to time.
- Get help when needed. There is no shame in getting outside help. You may be surprised at the insights expert counseling may provide.
When a marriage falls apart, it is easy to get self-absorbed by focusing on the material aspects of property division and the logistics of custody. Divorce is more than that. If you are looking for divorce assistance in New York, we can help you restructure your life — just don’t forget your children in the process.