No matter which way you cut it, dealing with changing family dynamics usually takes a toll on everyone involved, especially your kids. Children, who may not always understand the depth of everything going on around them, usually take big changes like divorce harder than adults.
In order to help your children cope with a divorce, the best thing you can do is be there for them, emotionally and physically. Regardless of their age or attitude, they can see when a parent is doing their best and trying to help, and they’ll appreciate it, whether they show it or not. For a few applicable tips for helping your child deal with your divorce, read our list:
1. Be clear your child is not to blame
In divorced families, children may sometimes think they are the cause of the divorce, even unconsciously. The best way to make sure your child never misplaces the blame, remind them of how much you and their other parent love them. Let love the focal point of any issue, and remind your child how important their happiness is to you. Even older children need reassurance during such a confusing and tumultuous time, so never hesitate to offer any comfort or support they need.
Even if your ex is brought into the conversation, try to focus on the positive. For example, if your ex-husband isn’t able to pick up your son for their promised day together, remind him how much his father loves him, and that even adults make mistakes sometimes. It may be hard, because you’re likely angry too, but try to speak for the benefit of your child.
2. Keep the lines of communication open
Always make it crystal clear that your child can come to you about anything they wish to talk about, especially regarding their feelings about the divorce. Be as honest as you are able, without discussing things a child simply shouldn’t know. Don’t bad mouth their parent, ever, but don’t sugarcoat situations either. Children, even young children, pick up on more than we realize, and if their other parent is making poor decisions, they’ll likely know it too. It’s important to allow your child to feel angry when its warranted, or sad, or happy. Open up the lines of communication and let them express themselves whenever possible.
3. Try to be flexible
Shared custody and visitation schedules can be difficult to manage, but for the benefit of your child, do what you can do make it work. Even if your ex frequently falls through, it’s important that you do what you can to make visits between your child and their other parent as doable as possible. For example, if they are continually canceling their Saturday morning visits, maybe offer switching to another time that works better with their schedule. Don’t think of it as doing your ex a favor, but think of how important those visits are to your child, and put their needs first.
4. Keep arguments private
Never argue in front of your children, under any circumstances. The issues between your co-parent and yourself are your issues, and should not involve your child. When children overhear their parents arguing, especially during pick-ups and drop-offs, it can be very easy for them to think of themselves as the cause. Even if your arguments are about your child and custody, or other issues, don’t let your child get caught up in the crossfire. Schedule times for you and your ex to discuss any issues away from your children or, if you must, resort to email to avoid unproductive arguments.
5. Stay positive during goodbyes
Switching between parents can be complicated and awkward, and can easily make your child feel caught between the two of you. Do your best to stay positive and act as if you’re dropping your child off for a play date. They will notice your attitude, and if you can be positive, they’ll be more likely to do so, also.
6. Always give a warm welcome home
Welcoming your children back to your home after a weekend or so with their other parent can be difficult and strange to navigate. You want to be sure not to seem disinterested, but you also don’t want to be so inquisitive as to appear to mistrust your ex. If you show no interest, your child may feel like talking about their time with their other parent is taboo, and something to be ashamed of. Again, keep communication open and send a clear message that your children are welcome at home, and equally welcome to talk about their time away.
If you need help negotiating your child custody arrangement, or renegotiating an existing agreement, our family lawyers can help. Our firm helps clients in Palm Beach and Broward Counties through our centrally located office in Boca Raton, Florida. Contact Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC today to find out what our family law attorneys can do for you.