Following a divorce, protect your children from hurt and fear by providing a loving framework of reassurance to calm them.
With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, many children are being impacted each day. Some resent their parents’ parting while others are relieved by a decrease in tensions.
Yet few children enjoy surrendering a parent or sharing two part-time when custody is assigned following the court orders. Kids are creatures of habit, and moving to a new residence, starting a new school, and making new friends can be stressful. If you have recently separated or divorced, here are a few tips to reassure your children.
1. Put the kids first. Setting aside your personal vendetta against a crusty spouse, agree to work with your ex-mate to make the transition as smooth as possible for the kids. This will mean not arguing in front of them, not expecting kids to take sides, and not criticizing the parent in his or her absence, all of which calls for restraint by the custodial and non-custodial parents. Maintaining a controlled veneer helps to let kids know that while things may not be quite what they would like, the world is not coming to an end. Mom and Dad may not still be under the same roof, but at least they are trying to work together to instill values and reinforce discipline for the children’s sake.
2. Maintain a routine schedule. As closely as possible, follow the same schedule you have been following. Enroll the children in their same school as before, attend the same church, let them see friends from the “old” neighborhood if you must move, and continue to enjoy similar activities as previously. All of these things can soothe children’s anxieties about the pending change of lifestyle.
3. Do not jump into another relationship too quickly. Getting involved with another person soon after a divorce can be disastrous for several reasons. The divorced parent needs time to heal and reflect on problems that led to the breakdown of the prior marriage. Kids need time to adjust to a new environment or set of circumstances, and they may interpret a new romantic interest by either parent as a betrayal of the other. Potential step-parents also need time to get used to your children. The leading cause of conflict in subsequent marriages is child discipline, since the biological parent often will disagree with the step-parent about how to praise, punish, or supervise the kids. Don’t give the kids more than they can handle right away. Give them time to heal from the divorce before adding new challenges to their lives.
4. Maintain contact with ex-in-laws and former friends that had a positive impact on the kids. Such relationships help to provide security from the former life as well as a network of support if needed.
5. Encourage the non-custodial parent to be involved with the kids as much as possible. School activities, sports events, and family celebrations are excellent ways to promote unity and acceptance as well as mutual respect. Shutting out the other parent will not only deprive your children of a balance of parenting styles and gender roles, but may well put you in the role of “bad guy” as they grow older and develop resentment for your excluding attitude.
Hold on to a positive attitude and embrace consistency whenever possible. A divorce can lead kids to doubt their parents and themselves, so plan activities to maintain a family atmosphere that does not spark depression, anxiety, or fear.