Divorce is hard on you, so imagine how it can feel for your children. They cannot control the situation. They didn’t choose it. And it still puts their lives into the same sort of turmoil that you face.
The key is to put the kids first. Focus on them. Work hard for them. Understand how they feel and what you can do as a parent to make this easier. Here are 10 things you should do:
1. Taking age into account, be as honest as you can. It is important to protect them from some of the details, but never lie to them. It only makes it worse when they learn the truth.
2. Never say the negative things that you may end up thinking about your former spouse. Insults have no place in the home when the children are around. Put your own emotions aside and stay civil for their sake.
3. Remember that your ex is still their parent. Barring something drastic — safety issues, for instance — it is usually best for the kids to see both you and your ex. Don’t stand in the way of this.
4. Focus on reliability and consistency. Divorce is hard for kids because they are creatures of habit, and divorce changes all of their schedules and expectations. Help to create new ones.
5. Find a co-parenting plan that really works. You can take a creative approach. Don’t assume you must have a stereotypical plan. Find the one that gives your children the best upbringing.
6. Love your children. Show it. Never assume they know it. They have a lot of doubts during this time. Go out of your way to make it very clear that you love them and you always will.
7. Be wary of friends’ advice. They can help you, but not everyone has the exact situation. Even if they have been through a divorce, don’t assume they are right. Think critically about their advice before using it.
8. Talk about how divorce makes the kids feel. You don’t have to smother them, but try to bring it up and open those doors. They may feel much better just saying it out loud.
9. Put the children ahead of your feelings about your former spouse. If you get angry or frustrated, never take it out on the kids in any fashion.
10. Make sure they know that they bear no fault in this situation. Never make them feel guilty or like they caused the split. They may assume they did, so you even want to go extra far in reassuring them that they did not.
As you keep these steps in mind, make sure you know exactly what legal options you have to make this as easy for the children as possible.