Divorce is hard on the entire family, but it’s an especially significant disruption to children’s lives. Unfortunately, regardless of their age, gender or culture, all children of divorced parents are at substantially higher risk of mental health and behavioral problems.
However, many parents aren’t aware that how much a divorce affects a child’s life largely depends on how you and your ex-partner treat each other before, during and after the divorce is final. Parents must remember that even though their marriage is over, their role as parents to the children they share is more important than ever.
Whether you are just starting the divorce process or have been separated for some time, parents need to work together to ease their kids’ transition. By setting aside your differences and putting your child’s needs first, you can ensure the adjustment of divorce goes as smoothly as possible so they can soon thrive. Here are a few ways you can help your children adapt to your new family dynamics:
Tell them your decision early and communicate often
It’s essential that your child feels comfortable sharing their worries, fears and feelings with you and your ex during this time. The sooner you can simply and calmly tell your kids what is happening, the safer they will feel. Be sure to reassure them that it is not their fault and be patient with their questions. You can always enlist the help of a family counselor or pediatrician for breaking the news to your kids.
Maintain your child’s routine
Parents living in separate households should agree on a consistent routine and set of rules for their children to follow. Keeping your child’s daily routine as unchanged as possible will help them feel normalcy during this trying time. Try to schedule their meals, homework, chores and bedtime around the same times, so your kid knows what to expect each day no matter which house they’re at.
Respect your child’s relationship with the other parent
Most children have loyalties to both of their parents; they must allow their children to have a positive relationship with their other parent and never make them choose sides. Don’t criticize your ex in front of your kids or make them feel guilty for spending time with their other parent. You should ensure your children know that you both still love them even though you are no longer together.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Divorce is hard for both children and adults. If you or your kids are having some difficulties adjusting to your new life, there’s no shame in asking for support from friends, relatives or professionals. If your children are struggling with the adjustment, you can inform their teachers and social worker about your divorce to notify you of any problems in school. For parents, there are counselors, support groups and many books on life after divorce that can help you get back on your feet.
Divorce is tough, but children are incredibly resilient. By continuing to communicate openly with your children, maintaining respect and similar routines with your ex, and seeking help when you need it, you can ensure you all get through this challenging time together.