How to Protect Children During Divorce
Ensuring their emotional and mental health for now and the future
We are always reminded that children's minds are sponges for information and that they are extremely perceptive. From a young age, children are able to read faces and emotions and many of us have those childhood memories that affected us for a long time. Surely divorce will be a strain on your family, but your kids should not have to suffer. Both parents should protect children during divorce by focusing on what you say and how you interact with others in their world.
Divorce can impact adults and children in many different ways and manifest its affects in various manners. The ability of a child to cope with divorce will depend upon child's gender, age, and maturity level. Generally, younger children may exhibit the signs of coping by temper tantrums, change in sleeping habits, toilet training or trouble in school. Older kids may exhibit symptoms of depression, trouble in school, or a change in behavior that shows hostility towards authority. Often teenage children whose parents are going through divorce will resort to more adult coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol; but it does not have to be this way.
Navigating your divorce will be trying in many ways, but parents should never choose the following negative behavior over protecting children during divorce.
What you say
The first hurdle - bad mouthing your spouse in their presence
What is a large understatement, some divorces tend to harbor some bitterness. Even with the most amicable divorces, a touch of disappointment or animosity can linger. No matter what form it takes, you must avoid letting it spill out of your mouth and upon the ears of your children. Sharing your negative commentary about your spouse with your kids is the stealthiest and most effective way to cause emotional damage.
Children develop a bond with each parent and make strong associations with themselves. Knowing that half of them came from the spouse you so despise can leave deep scars. Challenging their loyalty, creating a divide, and watching you reel with sadness is clearly a recipe for emotional issues - yet many have the hardest time following this advice. Whether or not you consider your child mature enough to participate as your audience should not be a consideration.
The go-between - turning the child into a messenger
Unfortunately, it warrants discussion - do not use your children to relay any kind of messages from you to your spouse. By placing them in this position, you are making your own child the bearer of bad news for the other parent, constantly feeling pressure to choose a side. Additionally, asking your kids questions about your ex's life will only make children feel they must remain loyal to one camp.
For your children, your relationship is a template and example for how to handle a lot of things in life. Apart from understanding healthy romantic relationships, learning how to communicate and solve problems cannot be learned from parents who speak through their kids. Teach your children skills and values by upholding a respectful decorum with your ex. If you feel communicating with your ex is impossible without problems, it may be a useful option to hire a family lawyer who can communicate on your behalf.
Who you involve
The importance of co-parenting
No one expects fast friendships to form between exes in the wake of divorce. The expectation is that of successful communicators with the shared goal of parenting. All the ways that parents handle the situation and their emotions will improve the quality of life for your children.
By establishing and fostering mutual respect between you and your ex, the overall goal of raising well-adjusted children will emerge. To protect children during divorce, this must be the ongoing focus. From compromising on custody schedules, to sharing updates on medical, educational, and other changes, there should be little room for selfish indulgences.
The professional - utilizing the right resources
Divorce can have a powerful affect on children, that is certain. As parents, understanding and nurturing your child's health is important. Seeking a professional to evaluate how your child is coping and implementing therapy can help alleviate the emotions they struggle to understand. Every child copes differently and therapy can help manage any resulting behaviors.
Unfortunately, there is truth and consistency to the notion that children internalize and blame themselves for the divorce of their parents. Counseling can help prevent or eliminate these damaging feelings. Often, kids do not want to approach their already distraught parents with their emotions or thoughts. Be wary of comments or complaints regarding headaches or trouble sleeping as they may be signs of emotional stress taking a toll.
Overall, it should not be impossible to avoid making the above mistakes. Protecting children during divorce does not have to be difficult. By providing a stable and nurturing lifestyle, your children can flourish. Practicing the above during and after divorce can help you children maintain a strong sense of self and family.
If you are considering or going through divorce or custody issues, contact the experienced Bucks County divorce and custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. Call (215) 942-2100 or complete an inquiry form to schedule your appointment.