by Ali Miller, Attorney at Law, June 14, 2023
If you have children and are considering separation and divorce, one of your primary and biggest concerns is probably for your children. You may be wondering: How should I tell them the news? Will they be able to adjust well at home? How will they adjust to visiting the moving-out parents’ new residence? What can I do to make this as easy as possible for them? How can I keep them from getting hurt?
Although making the decision to separate and start the process of divorce is difficult, it may be the best path forward for your family. Your children may not understand at the beginning, but hopefully, they will see that it is the best choice for your family in the future. As you walk through your journey of separation and divorce, it is of utmost importance that you also support your children every step of the way.
Guidelines for Communicating Separation and Divorce for Children
If possible, before telling your children that you have decided to separate and divorce, speak with a therapist and/or a family law attorney. A therapist can provide support on how to communicate and process the emotional burden of going through a separation and divorce, while a family law attorney can provide advice on how and when to proceed with the next steps and what legal considerations you should make as you move forward. In addition, keep in mind the following general guidelines to try to protect your relationship with your children:
Unless your situation involves domestic violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or substance abuse, you should try to sit down together with your spouse and your children to tell them the news when you are ready to move forward with your separation. Make sure to tell them that both parents love them and start to prepare them for the changes that are coming. Also make sure to point out that your love for them won’t change, and mention anything else that is remaining the same (like what school they go to, etc.). Make sure you listen to your children and prepare to give appropriate responses to any questions they might have. Do not place blame or argue and have a planned way to end the conversation.
Once your children know about the separation and divorce, monitor their behavior for anxiety or stress. Just as divorce is one of the most stressful things you may go through, it also can be highly stressful and anxiety-producing for your children. Children do well in environments that promote consistency and routine, so despite the changes that your family is experiencing, try to keep some things the same for them (like always grabbing pizza for dinner on Wednesday nights). If you do notice some changes in your children’s behavior and are concerned about how they are handling the divorce, seek out a therapist that your children could speak with.
Preparing and Protecting Relationships
Although it is not easy, one of the best things you can do for your children when going through a divorce is to be a good co-parent with your ex. This means engaging in shared decision-making, being courteous at exchanges, sharing information, and shielding your children from any conflict between you and your ex. Regardless of how you feel about your ex, children love and want to spend time with both of their parents. You should never put your children in the middle of a dispute with your ex, use them as messengers, or talk with them about adult issues. Do not post about your ex or your separation and divorce on social media (directly or indirectly) because your children may one day see those posts and comments.
Building a Successful Co-Parenting Relationship
The key to a successful co-parenting relationship is to treat it as a business endeavor, with the common goal being to allow your children to thrive. Children who have separated or divorced parents with an amicable relationship typically feel more secure, have better self-esteem, become better problem-solvers, and are mentally and emotionally healthier. That is an objective that both you and your ex can get behind.
Unfortunately, not every family dynamic allows for a positive co-parenting relationship. If you are in a situation like this, keep in mind that you only have control over your choices and actions. Although your ex may not respond well as a co-parent with you, you can do your part to help shield your children from as much conflict as possible. This is certainly easier said than done, however, remembering that you are doing it to benefit your children can help. You may also want to seek the help of a Parenting Coordinator, who can assist parents with communication and decision-making in high-conflict custody cases.
Fostering a Healthy Environment for Your Children
Another important tip to do to help protect your relationship with your children while going through a separation and divorce is to take care of yourself. Seek help and support from family members, friends, and a therapist if you can. Set aside time to give attention to your physical and mental well-being. Prioritize doing things that you like to do, such as reading, hiking, walking, or listening to music. Take extra time to come up with a budget and make good financial decisions to avoid any unnecessary and extra stress. Avoid playing the comparison game on social media and instead focus on what you are grateful for in your life.
North & South Carolina Child Custody Attorneys
If you are considering a separation and divorce and you have children, then the family law attorneys at Collins Family & Elder Law Group are experienced and ready to help. We understand that each family’s situation is unique, and will walk alongside this journey with you to alleviate as much stress as possible and to bring you through to the other side of life after divorce.
Contact our team to schedule a consultation today.