No matter how amicable it is, divorce is hard on children. If you are going through a divorce or have recently gone through one, you may think there is little you can do to alleviate your kids’ pain short of letting time heal their wounds. However, that doesn’t have to be the case at all. Although you can’t shield your kids from the basic fact that you and your spouse will no longer be married, and, in most scenarios, live under the same roof, you can still take measures to make the transition easier on them. Accomplishing this will require discipline and hard work, but if you remain dedicated to the process, the results can far exceed the time and energy you expend.
The first step is to commit to prioritizing your children’s needs. Regardless of whether your children’s other parent is willing to do the same is irrelevant, and in far too many scenarios he or she will take the opposite course, doing anything and everything humanly possible to make co-parenting with them a nightmare. So what exactly does making your kids a priority entail?
Let’s begin with what it doesn’t, which is, in a nutshell, ignoring your personal needs entirely. Because you are now in the unfortunate position of having to care for those who may not be capable of doing so for themselves, all the while you are going through emotional turmoil, you must make a pact with yourself to stay steady and stable. That means getting your head back on straight. Go to therapy, seek support from friends, clergy, even strangers, get and keep your finances in order, let go of the past, including those physical objects that serve as constant reminders of what no longer is, and, in a most basic sense, run your household as smoothly as you can. Children require stability as do you, especially if you want to care for them in the way they need during this tumultuous time. Despite no one being able to control anyone else’s behavior besides their own, how well you manage yours does set the tone for your household.
The best course of action is for you and your children to remain positively focused on the present and future.
Keeping that in mind, be mindful not to fight with your ex within earshot of your kids. Even if you are not arguing, take added precautions not to discuss parenting issues anywhere your children can hear you. Although it should go without saying, you should avoid talking about such topics with your kids directly. If they do bring up subjects that are better left between you and your spouse, gently explain that their concerns will be taken care of and they should not worry. The last thing you want your children to have is more anxiety than they already do as a result of your divorce, which brings me to this next point.
Even if you never believed in therapy in the past, enlisting the assistance of a reputable child/adolescent psychologist or psychiatrist who has training and experience dealing with divorce can be extremely beneficial. Although you may not think or want to believe it, your children may be more comfortable opening up to a stranger than you about how the divorce is making them feel. Still, remember to keep the lines of communication open with your children. One relationship has nothing to do with the other, and it is essential you respect the relationship your children have with their therapist, so resist the temptation to pry. Rest assured that if there exists a situation about which you should be made aware, the mental health professional who’s lending a helping hand will address it with you.
Although you are experiencing a lot of change in your life, with much more on the horizon, the best course of action is for you and your children to remain positively focused on the present and future. That includes staying alert about the status of your kids’ schoolwork, participation in extracurricular activities, and friendships. Pay close attention to any deviation in their patterns, including slipping grades and the kids they spend time with, or whether they appear less social. Keep them involved. Without a doubt, you can expect to hit a few bumps along the way, but like most obstacles, with resolve, you and your children will overcome these, too.
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