Divorce isn’t easy for any family member, but here at Seabrook Law, we will continue to put pressure on all sides to be the most concerned about how this process will impact your children. Where possible, both spouses should work together to minimize the impact the divorce has on their children. While some change and adjustment are inevitable, there are things you can do to protect your children and make this transition easier for them. As your divorce attorney might tell you, there are some great things you can do to get out ahead of the situation and prepare your family.
As a parent, you have a deep desire to make things easy for your children. The best thing a child can hear is that he or she is loved by both parents. But even in the best-case scenarios, your children could still have trouble adjusting. And what’s right for one child doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true for another, either. Assure any child that is having difficulty adjusting to the news that there’s nothing wrong with them or their emotions and that everyone interprets these things differently.
Both parents should continue to limit discussions with their child unless it is absolutely critical for the child to know. Engaging outside help, like therapists, is recommended for nearly every situation.
1. Discuss Timing with the Other Parent
The week before your high school student’s finals or the days before your child’s major soccer tournament are not the best time to bring up these significant changes in their life. However, don’t try to hang on for months at a time “just to get through the summer” or “survive the holidays.” Work together with the other parent to decide on the appropriate timing and place to share this news.
You’ll also want to work through how you’ll present any immediate changes in their schedule — it’s going to be a question they raise during your initial conversation. Make sure they know how soon anything is changing so that they can prepare for it. If you will be using a short-term visitation schedule until things are finalized, have your plans outlined for that well in advance. If you’ve already met with your divorce attorney, you should have a good sense of the timeline in front of you.
2. Prepare a United Front
In some extremely high-conflict divorces, getting on the same page as the other parent to break the news to the kids might feel impossible. But the more that you both can present a united front, the easier it is for children.
Set aside a time to discuss with your former spouse how you’ll share this news. Make sure the children have time to ask questions or share concerns at that moment. During the conversation, remember to reiterate that while this does mean some changes in their day-to-day life, nothing has changed in terms of how much you or the other parent care about them. It is also proactive to choose neutral language that ensures both spouses are on the same page; it is very common for children to take this personally or ask questions about whether they caused the divorce, so be prepared to handle those kinds of comments.
3. Avoiding Bashing the Other Parent in Front of the Children
DO NOT CRITICIZE THE OTHER PARENT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN! Outside of neutral references or positive comments, avoid saying anything negative about their other parent. Emotions run high during a divorce, and oftentimes the other spouse is a complete jackass, but it’s a lot for children who might be blaming themselves to hear one parent bash the other. Encourage a positive relationship with the other parent by making the child feel comfortable about this scheduled time, welcomed home when they return, and asking positive questions about their time there.
As your divorce lawyer will likely tell you, bashing the other parent only causes more issues and animosity that can show up at home and in court.
4. Keep as Much the Same as You Can
During turbulent times, children benefit from routines and stability in any way you can provide it. Avoid any other major changes in their life at this time. As much as possible, maintain their routines, activities, visits with other family members, and school schedules.
By keeping things the same and being available to your children as much as possible to help with these adjustments, you can make a difficult situation easier for your family.
Telling necessary parties, like grandparents or even teachers, can be a way to have extra support in the child’s immediate world so that others can be keeping an eye on them, too. Sharing the information about your divorce can also help avoid situations such as a teacher being confused by a disengaged or upset child.
5. Answer Questions
Children will have both questions and high emotions during this time. For that reason, you’ll want to let them know it’s okay to ask and that you and the other parent are available to help answer them. Never show the children any court documents. Although it might seem like the right approach to ease their emotions, avoid making unclear statements or twisting the truth. These actions can set them up to be frustrated or hurt in the future, so be honest with them.
You can also expect that some children will look for clues that you’re going to get back together. They might ask you questions about this or make statements indicating they believe this is a short-term situation. This is another opportunity to present that united front with the other spouse and make it clear to your children, in age-appropriate terms, what this means for them.
Contact Seabrook Law Offices
Ready to file for divorce but need support? Hire a divorce attorney you can trust. At Seabrook Law Offices, our mission is to help parents protect their children through divorce. It’s a dangerous time for your kids, and we know you’re hurting so badly, you can’t focus on them. However, it’s time to put on your grown-up pants and handle the divorce carefully. The family court system is a sewer system, and it’s best to get out as quickly as you can. Paul Seabrook and the team at Seabrook Law Offices provide reliable representation, with an emphasis on helping you and your children move on with your lives and into a better future.