Divorce can get ugly, especially when children are involved. It is critical to realize that these younger, powerless individuals are actually active participants in a divorce. The Institute for Equality in Marriage has developed the following tips to help parents focus on their children's well-being during this difficult process.
1. Keep Them Informed
Children are perceptive. While they don't need to be exposed to every detail of your divorce, shutting them off from the process can lead to feelings of isolation and confusion. With a lack of explanation, they will often blame themselves for the break-up.
Promote an environment of open, honest communication. Take time to carefully articulate the reasons for the divorce and consistently encourage children to ask questions. If you are unable to separate feelings of resentment or anger towards your spouse in these conversations, let a friend, teacher, spiritual leader or therapist talk with your child instead.
2. Be a Role Model
Role models, particularly parents, play a strong role in children's self-esteem and character development. Remember that your children are watching you. It is critical to acknowledge and deal with emotions such as anger and grief, but do so during private time and through a support network of friends, family and, if necessary, a therapist.
When dealing with the "business" of your case, set aside these powerful feelings. Handling this process like a professional sends a positive message to your children and teaches valuable life lessons about acting responsibly even through rough times.3. Repair the CynicismIt is common to lose your faith in relationships and partnerships after a divorce, but it is unfair to pass this belief on to younger family members. Children must have some understanding of the reason your relationship didn't work so they see the divorce as situation-specific. Make sure your dialogue and actions aren't projecting a damaging picture of relationships to your children. 4. Give Them a JobWhile they shouldn't be made a part of your legal team, it is crucial to let children be involved in the transitions that occur after divorce. If the split means relocation or a change in lifestyle, make children a part of related tasks. Give a young child the responsibility of cutting out coupons to help cut grocery costs. Take them with you when looking at potential relocation areas.5. Pay AttentionIt's easy to be distracted by the many emotional and business issues involved in a divorce. These tough times of transitions can be the catalyst to negative and even harmful behavior for children, including violence, drug or alcohol abuse and depression. Again, communication is critical and drastic changes in behavior should be addressed. If necessary, consult the advice of a licensed counselor or therapist.The Institute for Equality in Marriage has both tips for improving your marriage and guidance on preparing for divorce.