I recently came across a very interesting topic in the mom group I am a member of … what to do with an unexpected divorce. This got me thinking really hard. I personally went through a divorce already in the past, and mind you it was a tough process. Even more when there are kids involved. With the sudden rise of separation in my circles (due to stress from work, family, being home, etc.), I thought long and hard before deciding that it would make a great post to share my thoughts on this matter.
According to a recent report, divorce rates across the world spiked during the pandemic. This is largely due to the fact that, in the absence of our usual routines, we had much more time to think and reassess any issues we may have been dealing with. As a result, many couples may have come to the decision that being together is no longer what is best for them – and their families.
While divorce is always difficult (for both parties), it becomes even more complicated when children and families are brought into the mix. After all, not only do you have to divide assets and complete lengthy paperwork, you also need to discuss complicated matters such as custody and visitation.
However, it’s important that you do whatever it takes to make this process as easy as possible for your kids, as separating your partner will change their lives too.
With that in mind, here are some easy ways in which you can help your children through the divorce process.
- Try to keep things civil. There are various reasons why two people may decide upon a divorce – some of which will leave you with residual feelings of anger and resentment. However, in order to make the process as easy as possible for your children, you must try to keep things civil. Don’t let them see (or hear) you arguing, and speak kindly about your partner. Keeping things civil will also help the entire legal process much more straightforward, allowing you to move forward with trust and dignity.
- Let them know what is happening sooner rather than later. As a parent, you’ll naturally want to protect your child from anything that could upset them. As a result, you may find that you hold off on telling them about the divorce for as long as possible. However, this could actually do more harm than good, due to the fact that you are not giving them time to heal and understand what is happening before it’s too late.
- Keep some details close to your chest. Once you begin to discuss divorce with your children, they’ll likely have a lot of questions – many of which will center around the reason why you are getting a divorce. It is up to yourself and your spouse how many details you share – but remember that it’s okay to keep some of the finer points to yourself – especially if these details will upset your children further.
- Set clear guidelines for childcare. When separating from your partner, you must also have a conversation about who is caring for the children and when. This is due to the fact that equal parent time is not only important for a child’s happiness and development, it’s also a legal requirement in some states. In order to make this as easy as possible for everyone, put together a calendar and share it with your children, so they know what to expect.
- Keep your conversations age-appropriate. Divorce impacts children of different ages in different ways, likely due to the way in which they are able (or unable) to grasp the concepts of marriage and separation. Therefore, to minimize their confusion, it’s important that you talk to them about the divorce in a way in which you can understand. For example, you should explain divorce in a very simple and straightforward way to younger children, while giving teens the opportunity to ask any questions they might have.
- Consider therapy. As a parent, you’ll always be responsible for teaching kids to look after themselves no matter what situations they may encounter. However, there are some times where your support alone may not be enough to guide them through complex situations. Parental divorce is one of these times, meaning that they may benefit from speaking to a professional about how they are feeling. However, you should also show support by letting them know you are always there if and when they are ready to talk.
- Help them find healthy outlets for their feelings. Another way in which you can help your child deal with this difficult time is by helping them find healthy outlets for both their frustration and sadness. For example, this could include exercise, art, or even a simple conversation about how they are feeling. Above all, you need to find a way to help your child regulate their emotions to ensure they are not keeping things bottled up inside. One way in which you can facilitate these healthy conversations is by talking about your own emotions.
- Take care of yourself, too. In order to be able to be there for your children, you also need to be there for yourself. As a result, you should ensure that you deal with your own needs during this difficult time. Take some time off work if necessary, put together a self-care routine, and re-engage with old hobbies you may have left behind previously. Reach out to friends and family, fill your days with fun and laughter. The better your peace of mind, the easier it will be to care for your children and ensure that their needs are met.
- Maintain communication with your ex. Going through a divorce is tough, but if you want to continue putting your family first moving forward, you must also ensure that you try to maintain healthy communication with your partner. While you don’t have to speak to each other on a daily basis, you should ensure that you check in from time to time, especially on matters relating to the children. For example, you might want to reach out to remind them of a parent’s evening, or to share a story about what your child has done on a given day.
In short, there are various steps you can take to support your children as you go through a divorce with your partner. Above all, you should make it clear that while some things are changing, you’ll both be there for them no matter what and that you have their best interests at heart.