The financial and psychological impact of divorce can make it hard to function. It can make it even harder to parent. But it’s important not to let anger and fear hijack your good judgment. You must put aside your feelings about your ex and manage your anxiety about the future in order to provide a healthy home life for your children.
Even the most well-meaning divorced co-parents can do or say things that make their children feel anxious. Kids don’t always know what they need and if they do, they often don’t know how to tell you. Wondering how, exactly, to keep your kids from spending their entire adulthood on a therapist’s couch? Here are seven things you should know about kids and divorce.
- Don’t badmouth your ex. Kids are a product of both parents, so if you tell them the other parent is stupid, evil, and crazy, you are essentially telling them they’re stupid, evil, and crazy too.
- Support your child’s relationship with the other parent. How are your co-parenting skills? Kids have a right to a relationship with both parents. Unless your ex is legitimately abusive, you must facilitate their time with your children. Instead of focusing on what a jerk your ex is, think about your child’s need to love and be loved by the other parent.
- Maintain your relationship with your child. This can be challenging when you have a meddlesome, manipulative ex – especially if they have brainwashed your kid into believing you’re a terrible parent. After years of having your ex thwart your relationship with your kids, it may be tempting to pull away. But don’t stop calling, showing up for visitation, or attending school events. Your children want to know that you’ve made the extra effort to be with them – and they’ll remember this when they’re adults.
- Don’t use your kids for emotional support. Being a single parent can be exhausting: you may find yourself reeling from financial stress, social isolation, and the grief of a failed marriage. With your life in flux, it’s normal to feel depressed and overwhelmed — but don’t cry on your kid’s shoulder. If you find your feelings bleeding out, talk to a therapist, friends, or family. You need to focus your energy on parenting your child; your child shouldn’t have to parent you.
- Not every problem is related to divorce. There is so much information about the impact of divorce on kids that it’s easy to blame every problem they have on the fact that you and your ex split up. But feeling guilty will burden you and treating your kid like a bird with a broken wing will hurt her more than divorce. Remember: every kid has issues. Resist the urge to psychoanalyze and allow your child to go through normal growing pains. You want her to feel resilient, not damaged for life.
- Make an effort to be civil in front of kids. Body language can speak louder than words. It’s not enough to speak civilly. Your kids will catch every nasty sidelong glance and sigh of exasperation. Don’t make them dread seeing the two of you together. Your kids want to know you’ve made the effort to act like adults for their sake.
- Know when to talk about divorce — and when not to. Some kids want to know everything about the divorce or child custody arrangement, so remember that you’re the adult. Share age-appropriate information and don’t insinuate that you think your ex is a jerk. Some kids don’t want to talk about the divorce, and that’s okay. Not every child needs to be deposited in a therapist’s office or read 15 picture books about having two homes. They want to feel that they had a normal childhood, not a childhood that was all about divorce.
Getting a divorce and want to protect your kids? Have questions about how to bring peace to your child custody arrangements? Our attorneys can help. Please contact us to schedule your free confidential attorney consultation.