Children can be the silent victims of the divorce. Most parents want to minimize any damage the divorce has on their children. Follow these steps to help your children through your divorce:
- Don’t put the children in the middle. It is so easy to say, “Ask your father if he wants you next weekend?” Or “Find out if your mother has any plans on Wednesday.” Here is my advice. Don’t have your children be your messenger. Why? Worse case scenario is that your child feels responsible to get the information from the other parent who may not want to share that information with you and that parent reacts to the child. Best case scenario is that you are teaching your child that it is okay to avoid cooperating with another human.
- Don’t tell your kids about the other parent’s faults or name call the other parent. If you are getting a divorce, it is likely you are not your spouse’s biggest fan. But, guess what? Your child still sees that parent as more than human. If your spouse is a jerk, let your child figure that out on his/her own.
- Don’t rely on your children for your emotional support. Your spouse is gone and you are super sad. You need to talk about it. Please talk about it… just not to your kid. Your kid needs to be a kid. You need to be the adult. These are adult problems and feelings. The best case scenario is that your child begins feeling responsible for your happiness. The worst case scenario is that your child learns to hate their other parent. Find a therapist.
- Tell your kids you love them. Again and again and again and again. Tell them too much. They are in a world of chaos and need reassurance.
- Model cooperative communication. When problems happen, model that you will talk to the other parent to try to find a solution, without name calling, blaming, or avoiding.
- Don’t send your kids to therapy simply because you are getting a divorce. Why? When kids are sent to therapy, they think something is wrong with them. And, since you are now announcing that you are getting a divorce at the same time you are sending your child to therapy, guess what your child assumes? They assume their behavior caused the divorce. Instead, wait and watch. If your child is showing signs of distress (i.e. behaviorally or emotionally acting out), then send your child to therapy to work through the problem. But, don’t send your child to therapy unless there is a problem