One of the biggest problems during divorce is children stress.
It is normal for parents to lose sight of their kids when they first drive into divorce. It is a super stressful experience and tends to throw parents into survival mode until they get a grip.
It’s like a form of healthy denial.
If the parents focused too much on their kid’s pain they might not follow through on the divorce. This does not have to last forever, or even for a long time.
Ready to learn how to help your kids manage the divorce? Here are eight tips!
1- Keep It Simple, Yet Honest
Parents struggle with how to break the news that they are getting divorced to their kids.
At best, they come up with convoluted stories that are meant to divert blame from either parent. At worst they straight up blame the other parent or themselves.
Keep this really simple. Your kids don’t want to know who is at fault. They don’t want the details. They simply want to understand what is going on and that THEY are not at fault.
Yes, as crazy as it sounds kids often feel responsible.
Simply tell them “Your dad and I are not happy together so we are going to move to separate homes” and reassure them “we both love you so much!”.
2- Keep The Kids Out Of It
Under no circumstances have your children carry messages to the other parent.
All communication needs to be between the two of you. Your kids are processing enough, they don’t need the burden and responsibility of being messengers and dealing with a possible negative reaction to a message.
Do not talk to them about the other parent except to point out their strengths. Yes, they still have some! Your kids are building little models of the two of you in their minds. Those models are part of who they think of themselves.
When you knock down the other parent in your child’s mind, you knock down your child.
3- No Guilt Over Children Stress
Because it really is that simple, that you both are no longer happy together -and don’t see a way to change that- let go of the guilt.
The fact is you are all going to be pretty miserable for the next year or two and you are suffering together so that you can be happier apart. Your kids will learn that “toughing it out” is not worthwhile when you are guaranteed years of misery.
They will learn the lesson you are learning of you gotta put yourself first before you can take care of others.
Part of releasing the guilt will come as you make decisions based on the well-being of your kids as opposed to focusing on your own anger and disappointment.
4- Focus On Them
Keep your eyes on the prize of your children’s well-being.
To do this, there is going to be some mourning of the loss of the marriage, some letting go of blame and anger, and forgiving the other parent as well as yourself for all shortcomings over the years. When you work through those hoops, you will be less triggered in the divorce process and less concerned about the other side losing.
You will be more focused on a win-win outcome. Hint: You may need the help of others who know this territory!
5- Co-Parenting Not Parallel Parenting
If it is at all possible, get on the same page about how you both want to raise your children. This is what “co-parenting” is all about, being on the same page in regards to the kids.
This is going to save you and your children a lot of anxiety now and in the future. Come to an agreement about food, bedtime, screen time, friends, etc in advance and support one another.
You will avoid being split by the children when one parent has a different practice than the other.
When you both agree on what contributes to your children’s well-being, you will have a rallying point with which to negotiate other areas of conflict as well. The alternative is what is known as parallel parenting. This is a twilight zone existence in which children are raised with differe3nt values and schedules in each household.
Children crave regularity, and so avoiding parallel parenting is super helpful in keeping their experience more consistent.
6- Get Them Some Help
No matter how well you do everything else, your kids need someone besides you to talk to.
A therapist would be ideal. Whether it makes sense or not, deep down they feel responsible. On some level the divorce feels like a personal failure to them and accepting it is a real challenge.
Get them some professional help even if it’s just for a season so that they have an outsider’s view affirming their innocence in all this and helping them to speak their feelings freely.
7- Give Them Some Control
Unless you are nesting (where kids keep the house and parents alternate being in the house with the kids), your children will have at least one new home if not two.
They will need more clothes, toys, furniture, school supplies, etc. to equip both homes and save them from living out of a suitcase. Let them shop these items with you. Give them the freedom to create their own experience.
This will help them build a sense of independence and maybe even have some fun.
8- Seek Help
You will want to surround yourself with folks who know the world of divorce.
People who have been there and hopefully know how to keep the divorce short and sweet. This could be friends and family. It might be a spiritual community.
It certainly could be a therapist and or a coach. Getting help with the feelings is going to help keep you from being triggered.
Getting a good coach will help you release the pain and anger and keep your eyes on the prize!