As someone whose parents have been separated, almost divorced for the past four years now, I have a pretty good grasp on how you can relate to your child if you and your husband are deciding to part ways. Though a divorce can be incredibly tough on a family unit, and often have adverse effects on the children, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world for your kids. These tips can help you as you are choosing the right words to say and how to comfort your child during this tumultuous time.
1. Don’t Say, “Nothing Is Going To Change.”
Because both you and your kids both know that’s a lie. In fact, everything they’ve once known is going to change. They are most likely moving to one house without both of their parents for the first time and realizing that the rest of their lives are going to be spent juggling your two households. It’s a lot to process, and you should give them that time. So instead of saying nothing is going to change, say that your love and relationship with your kids is not going to change.
2. Don’t Talk Crap On Your Ex-Spouse
My situation might be a little different because I am not Switzerland between my parents in their separation desperately trying to please both, I wholeheartedly support my mother and tell that to my father when we talk once every month. But, in hopefully most cases, your children might be very torn between both you and your ex. They want to please and love both of you, and it’s very uncomfortable when a child is told negative things about their parent so one parent can try to win their trust incorrectly. My mother has always been very polite and encouraged my brother and me to talk to my father, which I have always respected. My dad rails on my mom and her family every opportunity he gets, and when I tell him to stop, it always results in a fight. This causes me to want to spend time with him even less. So be careful what you say in front of your child, they are not your best friend or family member, they don’t need to take sides. And your ex is still your child’s parent just as much as you are.
3. Be Open
Divorce can be something that once announced is never talked about again except for in hushed voices. Let your kids ask you and your ex-spouse as many questions as they want. Have open conversations with them when you are discussing next steps and how the court case is going. Don’t hide something from them, so they just find out later. Be honest with your struggles and they will be honest with theirs.
4. Try To Act Normal
Don’t try to make everything the “best it can be.” That means don’t go over the top for your first Christmas as a separated family, just so they feel extra love, or buy them random presents, or let them do things they have never done before. Just try to continue your life the best you can, separated from your spouse. If you keep with your routine, your kids are going to adjust better.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Discipline Them
Divorce is not a “get out of jail,” free card. Your kids still have rules they are expected to follow and ways they are expected to behave. Make sure that you and your ex are still crystal clear on household rules and punishments so that they match up. Share with your ex when your child has been getting into trouble so that you are both aware and working to fix the issue. But don’t let your kids make you feel bad about your divorce, so you go easy on them, they need to know that nothing is going to change the way, you parent.
6. Don’t Try To One-Up Your Spouse
If your husband takes the kids to the zoo, don’t take the kids to the aquarium. Be content enough in knowing that your children adore both of you, and don’t make their affections a competition.
7. Tell Them Together
Try not to stress too much about saying the perfect thing or having it in the perfect location, because honestly, no matter how much you plan, it’s still going to be awful for your kids to hear. That’s just the truth. No amount of sugary sweet words or going somewhere fun is going to fix their initial reaction. But make sure that one parent doesn’t bail out on telling the kids what is happening. If you both still want to be actively involved in your kid’s lives, you need to both be present. And, the end of any relationship, is the work of two people, not just one. My dad wasn’t present when my mom told my brother and I that they were separating. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive him for that. I felt utterly worthless like I was too much of a hassle for him to make an appearance. Make sure that your kids don’t feel that way.
8. Don’t Lie
If you are getting separated, as opposed to divorced right away, don’t make any promises you can’t keep to your kids. Don’t get their hopes up that you might get back together, give them the facts and say you are hopeful but don’t try to scoot around the issue. Kids will, and should, be angry with you if you say that you just need some time and then you’ll be a happy family again, and that doesn’t happen. Don’t destroy your trust with your child to try to make it easier on them.
9. Let Them Have Emotions
This is going to be the hardest part you as a parent have to deal with. You need to let your kids be honest with you and your ex about how they are feeling. If they are angry, let them be angry. If they cry, hold them when they cry. If they have nothing to feel, let them know you’re ready when they need to talk. An excellent resource could also be getting your children into counseling, just so that they can have an outside party they can talk to about the situation. That way, they can properly process their feelings without being afraid of hurting yours.
10. Show Them It’s Not Their Fault
Often in many divorces, especially with younger children, they tend to blame themselves as the reason you and your ex-split up. If they had just behaved better, or done this, or done their chores, you would’ve stayed together. And I know that you can tell your children they had nothing to do with it until you’re blue in the face, but they can still hold those scars in their hearts. So instead of repeating yourself over and over, try to show them. Continue to love them each and every day with all that you have. When you discipline them, chose your words carefully and tell them you still love them and Daddy still loves them even when they mess up. Be the parent you have always been, and they will see that they did nothing to cause this.
In conclusion, divorce can be extremely hard on children of all ages, but the important thing to remember is that your family will survive this trying time. I wish you the best of luck as you go through this trial, and would love to hear if these tips were helpful to you as parents below!