10 Divorce Tips to Protect Your Children
Divorce can be hard for children to understand. Click here for divorce tips to help your children through the divorce and how to protect them emotionally. “What am I doing to my kids?” Many parents ask good questions when experience divorce or legal separation so we put together some divorce tips to help you through your “Bad Day”. The reality is that 50% of children born today will see their parents divorce. It’s a challenging time in a child’s life. But there are ways to protect your children’s well-being. To help you, here are 10 divorce tips any parent can use.
Divorce Tips 1-5: What Not To Do
These divorce tips may seem obvious but stress can make them easy to forget.
1. Don’t Put the Kids in the Middle
It’s critical to remember that your divorce is between you and your spouse. It affects your children but it’s not about them.
Don’t use them as a go-between to convey information or ask questions. If you find it difficult to speak with your spouse, try email, text, or a disinterested third party. Never your child.
Don’t ask — directly or subconsciously — a child to take sides. Especially young children. Even the smallest choices (e.g. who makes the best grilled cheese) can leave them feeling guilty, angry, or anxious about hurting one or both parents.
2. Don’t Criticize or Blame Your Ex-Spouse
No matter how wronged you feel, vent your frustrations away from home. Divorce doesn’t stop your kids from seeking to see parts of themselves in you and your spouse. That’s a natural part of growing up.
When they hear one a parent criticizing or blaming the other, it’s common for them to internalize. They end up thinking the criticism also applies to them. That can breed resentment, distrust, and anxiety.
3. Don’t Let Them Be an Emotional Support
Your kids love you. Out of love, they might try to comfort you by being “all grown up”. They might offer a shoulder to cry on or take emotional burdens off your shoulders.
Don’t let them.
They have enough to deal with as they process their own emotions around the divorce. You are the adult with greater access to support networks.
4. Don’t Disrupt Their Lives
A new job or financial constraints sometimes make moving to a new city or state unavoidable. But when there are options, keep your child’s life as much like “before” as possible to reduce stress and anxiety
Even if you don’t stay in the family home, try to remain in their school district so they don’t lose their friends. Also, work to keep family traditions alive without clinging to the past that can’t be recreated. For example, if you always had a live Christmas tree and made decorating it an event, continue that tradition no matter where it happens.
5. Don’t Argue Within Earshot
This can be one of the trickiest divorce tips. How do you divorce and not argue? If you hide the arguments from your children, they might wonder why you need to divorce.
The answer is to disagree, not argue. It can be more healthy than not for children to hear what respectful disagreements sound like. Plus, de-escalating disputes with your ex can reduce your stress and anxiety too.
Divorce Tips 6-10: What To Do
Looking after your kids’ well-being during divorce isn’t just about not doing things. It also requires action.
6. Keep Their Needs Top of Mind
This tip applies from the moment you decide to divorce. If possible, tell your children about the divorce alongside your spouse. Hearing this news that shakes their world from both parents, can help ease fears and anxiety.
Remember, children have no control over the situation. They don’t have the life experience to help them cope. To protect them emotionally, you need to keep their needs top of mind.
7. Allow Appropriate Visitation
Unless it’s dangerous to do so, encourage your children to spend time with your spouse during and after divorce. Losing contact with a parent is one of the three things children fear during divorce.
After the visits, show interest in their experience. But don’t dig for information about your ex or ask your kids how they liked the experience. (Refer to divorce tips 1 and 6 for reminders why.)
If you are the one with visitation, make the child’s space feel like home.
8. Take Care of Yourself
It’s easier to deal with the upheaval of divorce when you take care of your own physical and mental health. It also gives your children a model for resiliency, maturity, and self-esteem. Teenagers often pay the closest attention to how you act during the divorce.
Self-care can be as simple as taking a walk by yourself or seeking the help of a therapist. Be aware that escaping through addiction (of any kind) is not self-care. That applies to your children too.
9. Create Safety
Your children need to feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings with you during the divorce. Remember, their world has been altered and they’re trying to find their way in the new reality.
You can demonstrate safety by listening when they speak. Don’t offer judgment or solutions unless they clearly ask. If they have questions, answer them with honesty and appropriate boundaries.
If you want to initiate a “check in” conversation, ask permission with phrases like “Would it be okay if we talk about that thing you said yesterday?”
If your children know other divorced couples, you can use a conversation about them to bring issues about your divorce to the surface. For example, “How do you think so-and-so feels about his parents’ divorce?” Make sure the conversation doesn’t turn to gossip.
10. Reassure, Reassure, Reassure
Your kids need to know:
- The divorce isn’t their fault
- They still have two parents
- They aren’t going to starve or be abandoned
You’re going to have to remind them of those things many times and demonstrate it’s true over and over if you want them to believe it.
If you see signs of self-blame, debilitating anxiety, or disruptive behavior that wasn’t there before, don’t assume you know what kind of reassurance your child needs. Listen to what they say (and don’t say) then focus on that.
Divorce Is Complex
Dissolving a marriage creates emotional, financial, social, and legal changes. You have a lot to think about and manage. We hope that these divorce tips can help you and your children stay well as you navigate the complexities of divorce.
If you live in South Carolina and are facing divorce, give us a call. We’re here to help.