Getting a divorce doesn't automatically mean your children will be negatively impacted for life. It does, however, mean that they will go through a big change, which some children may find traumatic, stressful and full of anxiety or depression. It breaks your heart thinking about that possibility. Your children are the light of your life, and you want to do everything you can to make their life easier and make it the best it can be. You want them to feel supported and loved through this big life change.
There are many do's and don'ts when it comes to how to behave before, during and after a divorce to minimize the impact on your children. Here are the top four ways to do that.
1) Interact cooperatively and respectfully with your ex in front of your children
Your child loves both parents and wants you to get along, even though you're not staying together. He or she looks to both of you as role models. More importantly, it can be traumatic for a child to witness the two people they love the most argue, fight or treat each other disrespectfully. It can be confusing and hurtful for your child. Even if you never want to see your ex again, make an effort to appear cordial in front of the children. Save any discussions that could potentially turn into an argument for a time when the children are not there with you. Equally important is making sure you do not badmouth your ex in front of your children when your ex is not there. If you do get into a disagreement with your ex, never ask your children to choose sides.
2) Do not expect your child to offer you extra support through this tough time
Before, during or after a divorce, some parents may lean on their children or child for extra support, either intentionally or unintentionally. This can lead to the "parentification" of your child, which means you're placing too much responsibility on the child. Turning your child into your confidant is not a healthy pattern. A child should be allowed to be a child, and not have to deal with the responsibility of holding you up and supporting you during a very difficult time. Of course, children are naturally sympathetic to their parents and want to offer to help them. It can be tempting to take that as a sign your child wants to support you, but in reality, the child is not ready for that.
3) Make sure your child has a strong support network
Your child will likely need someone to lean on other than his or her parents, to help ease the transition. Making sure your child maintains healthy connections to extended family members they love and can confide in is a good step. If your child experiences emotional distress and doesn't seem to be coping well, consulting with a professional psychologist or therapist for your child to see could help eliminate future problems.
4) Help your child stay in touch with both parents
Before the divorce, your child likely developed a strong bong with both parents. Now that there's a split, your child needs both parents to still be involved in his or her life. Abruptly cutting off ties with one parent and only allowing your child to see you is not healthy for him or her, and it causes too much of a change at once. The state of Colorado recognizes the importance of having both parents stay involved in your child's life. A family law attorney can help you create the best custody or visitation scenario that is in your child's best interests, keeping both parents in the picture whenever possible.
Children of divorced parents are at a higher risk of developing social, emotional or psychological problems - 25 percent of children of divorce have these problems, compared with 10 percent of children in two-parent households. Following these tips can help mitigate any long-term problems. The first two years after a divorce are the most crucial for the child. A family law attorney can help answer questions about the best legal path to take in a divorce to create a parenting plan that's best for your family's needs - especially in the crucial years following the divorce.