Going through a divorce or fighting over child custody is difficult and emotional for any parent, and any child. When a child realizes that their parents are breaking up, and will now live in separate houses, it can be very traumatic. This can cause a child to feel unstable and like the rug was swept out from their lives. There are some simple guidelines that parents can follow when transitioning to separate lives, which can help the children through this difficult time.
- Avoid Involving Children in the “Adult Conversations”. Inevitably during this time, there are some difficult issues that need to be addressed. Oftentimes, there are lawyers involved, and there may be some matters pending before the Probate and Family Court. Although children will sense what is going on, do not involve them in these more complex issues and conversations. If there are difficult issues that need to be discussed between the parents, do so without the children being around or involved. Keep the children out of these conversations. If the children ask about what is going on, it is alright to answer, but the answer should be at an age appropriate level, and should reassure the children that everything is going to be alright.
- Maintain normalcy as much as possible. If the children are used to a certain routine, try to maintain that routine as much as possible. Helping children maintain the “normal” life they had before the parents separated can help transition to the new life of parents living apart. Both parents should try to maintain this routine and normalcy in each of their homes as much as possible.
- Try to maintain similar house rules in each parent’s home. All parents have different parenting styles. When parents separate or divorce, these parenting styles are likely to be more amplified. However, parents should maintain similar house rules in their respective houses as much possible to maintain consistency for the children. Although there may be different parenting styles and approaches, if the fundamental rules remain the same, then children will transition more easily into having their parents living in separate homes.
- Avoid spoiling or “buying off” your child. When parents separate or divorce, one of the first inclinations may be to indulge their children with a special vacation or a much sought-after toy to help children cope with the separation or divorce. Although it can be fun to give gifts to your children for no reason sometimes, overindulging this because of a divorce can yield unfavorable results, and can lead to children acting out when they don’t get the toy they are asking for. It is okay to occasionally buy something special for your children, but don’t make it a practice or habit during a separation or divorce.
- Listen to your children. Children are going through a stressful and difficult time just as much as the parents are. Listen to what your children have to say. Never let your children think that you are not there for them as someone who will listen or as shoulder to cry on. Also, if it sounds as if your children are getting too stressed through the process, do not hesitate to take them to their pediatrician or a therapist as an additional resource to help them cope through this difficult time.
Although there is no perfect way for parents to divorce or separate, there are things that parents can do to help children cope and transition through this process. If parents use some common sense and follow the guidelines above, children will be able to transition to this new dynamic of the family more easily.