The new year is a time for many people to make resolutions. And while that brand-new gym membership card may sit unused by March (despite the best intentions!), it’s definitely worth putting extra effort into any resolution that may involve your children.
Here are the top five ways to make the divorce process and related transition phases easier for your kids:
1. Vow to keep things as consistent as possible, despite the turmoil.
Kids thrive on routine, rules, and familiarity. While divorce is by definition a disruptive process, try to maintain as much consistency as possible in terms of their day-to-day lives. If your kids are switching homes as part of a shared custody arrangement, try to keep bedtimes and other rules consistent, and allow them to bring their favourite toys, books, teddy bears, and treasured items from home to home.
2. Don’t turn your child into the messenger.
While it may be difficult to choreograph complicated custody and access schedules, medical care, and schooling and extracurricular activities, it remains the parents’ job to communicate to each other directly –without involving the child. Too often a child is directly or implicitly expected to convey information from one parent to the other, and this is never a good idea. For one thing, it places an immense responsibility on the child to give accurate and timely information; it also places the child in a difficult and unhealthy role in terms of being a potential mediator for any disagreements that become a “he-said/she-said” type dispute.
3. Don’t badmouth each other.
On the point of communication, it’s sometimes important for parents to show restraint as well. The inherent acrimony involved in most divorces makes it easy for parents to slip into making disparaging comments about the other. Kids pick up on negative messages both spoken and unspoken – even a silent eye-roll by one parent over frustrating or disappointing news about the other will quickly convey a message of disrespect. Resist the temptation; it can be very damaging.
4. Learn to deal with emotions – both yours, and your child’s.
When a couple divorces, it is common that certain previously-untapped jealousies will arise: one parent may resent that the children seem to prefer being with the other parent more, or may feel jealous that the other parent has moved on to a new relationship quickly. These comparisons between adults are normal human reactions, but children should be scrupulously sheltered from them. Conversely, parents should be deeply sensitive to the emotions that can arise in children when faced with the huge involuntary change in their lives that they are not merely being asked to undergo, but to accept without question or input.
5. Share birthdays and other occasions that are special to the child.
While it may be challenging to do in cases where the divorcing parents are truly challenged to even be in the same room together, parents should consider celebrating a child’s birthday together. Birthdays, school plays and events, and sports distinctions are all about celebrating the child; the ability by the parents to set aside their differences for an hour or two in order to relish a milestone or achievement can be very meaningful to a child.
Need more tips on how to make your divorce easier? Give us a call.