This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As both a child of divorce myself, and a mom who divorced when her kids were young, I know how deeply divorce can effect the lives of children.
The most important key when helping your kids through divorce is that every child deserves the right to freely love both of their parents. It is our job as their parents to create that space for our kids, regardless of our own anger and pain.
Here are 5 ways to create this space for your kids:
#1 Do your best to resolve your anger with your ex.
Seek counseling and/or a support group to help you deal with your feelings. Working through and letting go of your anger is essential. Remember you kids will always be half your ex. If you hate their other parent, they will feel that and experience it as a part of you hating them.
#2 Discuss issues with your ex only when the children are not around.
This doesn’t mean going to your bedroom and closing the door, the kids can still here. I suggest handling these discussing on your lunch break when you are at work or go outside and sit in your car. Wait until the kids are asleep and then step outside to speak on the phone.
#3 Don’t burden your children with adult problems.
This goes with #2. Your kids deserve to be kids. Don’t let them feel responsible for your happiness or your feelings. Burdening them with things they aren’t old enough to understand puts tremendous pressure on them.
#4 Only speak positively about your ex
As said above, if you speak disparagingly of your ex, you are indirectly hurting your children. Pointing out all the deficiencies of their other parent can create shame in their children since they love and identify with the other parent.
#5 Ensure that the children understand the divorce is not their fault.
Children will be the first to blame themselves when their parents fall apart. Thinking: If only I were a good girl or boy, mommy or daddy wouldn’t have life, or they would stop being so mad all the time. It is vital that you assure them, that the divorce was entirely your and your husbands decision, and no one is at fault. Further, reassure the kids that you are still a family, but a different kind of family now.
These practices all sound great on paper, but are hard to adhere to, especially when we are under the tremendous stress and wild emotions that so often accompany our decision to divorce. Don’t beat yourself up if slip up – just resolve to stick to these boundaries as often as possible.
This advice will not only serve you on an emotional level, it will help your case. Time and time again, it is the parent who consistently demonstrates the capacity to put the needs of the children above their own who sees the best outcome in court.
Lastly, practice self care. Make it your priority! Taking care of yourself through this process will make it far easier to adhere to these principles.