How to limit the damage to children due to divorce

LimitdamageAnxiety is caused when we do not know what is happening to us or around us.

When the routines or the rules of life keep on changing.

A child raised in a home where there is frequent conflict is a home where a child  is at risk, emotionally if not physically. Often parents think their arguments are not seen or overheard by their children but this is far from the case.

Children are impacted by the spoken and unspoken behaviours  and feel the tension between parents. Passive-aggressive behaviour between parents can be just as toxic as expressed frustration.

Children pick up the vibe of what is going on. They overhear phone conversations and school parking-lot chitchat.

They pick up on tone of voice before they process the words being spoken.

Divorcing couples  need to remember that whatever has caused the breakup of their marriage, they will still remain parents for ever. The children have not caused the break up. They want and need access to both Mom and Dad.

Children often feel confused as to why Mommy and Daddy have “stopped loving each other” and will often ask if Mom or Dad could they stop loving them?

As the changes of living arrangements are agreed between the parents, each step needs to be explained to the children. They want to know what is happening and then how they will see each of their parents. How will they have contact. They need lots of reassurance how these new living arrangements will work.

Once one parent has moved out of the family home it is critical for the children to have easy access to the non-resident parent.

Unless a parent is abusive; neglectful or incapable for some reason, it is vitally important for the children to have regular contact with the non-resident parent. The sooner a regular contact routine can be implemented for the children the better. Via phone, face time or skype children should be able to have regular contact with the non-resident parent.

A mediator or the attorneys can assist parents to make arrangements that are made in the best interests of the children. This will take time and planning.

If one parent has been less hands-on with the children while married, he/she may need to step up and make themselves more available for the children.

Appropriate childcare needs to be arranged in both homes so the children are equally safe and cared for in each home.

The more cooperative the parents can be around the children the easier it is for everybody and the less anxious the children will be.

The more adult like the parents can be resolving issues amicably either through discussion or through mediation the better it is for the children.

It takes time to adjust to this new way of living for the children and the parents. When each parent can focus on the bigger picture of their on-going responsibility of being the best parents they can be, everybody can begin to adjust and with that comes healing.

Need a safe place to talk?

Battling to move forward after a difficult divorce?

Coaching provides a confidential space to make peace with the past, accept the present and plan for your future. Call me on 082 888 1584 to make an appointment.

How to discuss divorce with young children

young children

Drawing to a close the first divorce mediation session with parents who had already been living apart under the same roof for over a year , the Mom who had been super efficient turned to me and asked –“so how do we tell our children that we are getting divorced?”

Everything else the mother had thought of…from her perspective. But now the tears were welling-up as she imagined having to sit with her soon to be ex-husband telling them that Mommy and Daddy were not going to be married anymore…not living in the same home anymore.

Depending on the ages of the children, will impact on how soon you will tell the children. But certainly you do not want to start this conversation until you are both absolutely resolved that divorce is the only answer for you both and that the process is underway.

Once you have explored your options and decided whether this going to be a mutually agreed mediated process or whether things have soured to the point that you need to have lawyers fighting on each of your behalf will impact greatly on how you plan to tell the children.

As parents you need to be able to put your relationship issues aside and act in the best interests of your children, who need to have a healthy parent/child relationship with both of you

There is no one right way to go about this conversation – but the following pointers will help you prepare for it.

  • Make sure that your children hear the news from you both, not from someone else. So do not go public with the decision until you have told your children.
  • Ideally both parents will be present when you break the news to the children.
  • Parents have already worked out where the primary residence will be and how the children will see the other parent.
  • Parents need to show the children that while they are going to no longer be husband and wife, they will both remain the children’s parents, their love for the children is secure and that they can still work together as parents.
  • It is most likely that a child will ask ”why are you getting divorced?” and parents need to prepare themselves to answer this question many times over during the early months and for years after the divorce.
  • The most important thing is to be honest and as hard as it might be; do not name and blame the other parent in front of the children.
  • Children want simple answers to simple questions such as:

Where is Daddy going to live? Where am I going to live?

 How will Mommy take me ballet when I am at Daddy’s house?

Where will the pets live? How will I get to school? Etc.

They want to know and make sense of what your divorce means in their lives.

  • For young children source age-appropriate story books that explain about divorce; so they can read through the practicalities of staying with Mommy and Daddy in two different homes.
  • They may be angry, they may cry, they may become silent and withdraw. All of these are very natural responses to the news that Mom and Dad are getting divorced. Show empathy and assure them of your love.
  • Inform their schools, of what is going to happen, so they can be understanding should they be upset at school.
  • If the divorce is going to mean the present family home is going to be sold tell them so as soon as you are aware of this. If only one parent is going to move out, let them know how it is all going to work. They want to know that the parent which is moving out is going to be okay as well as when they will see Mom or Dad.

In every action and conversation remember you are trying to offer as much security to the children midst the reality of the family being re-shaped by divorce.

Need a safe place to talk?

Battling to move forward after a difficult divorce?

Coaching provides a confidential space to make peace with the past, accept the present and plan for your future. Call me on 082 888 1584 to make an appointment.




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