HELPING CHILDREN COPE
Divorce is a scary and emotionally upsetting process for children. Research clearly shows that divorce has lasting negative affects on children, but there are things you can do to limit the trauma. It is really your choice; as a parent you have the ability to minimize the negative impacts of divorce on your child's development.
Communication is the key to success. Children can understand and process complicated situations with the correct communication from their parents. They need to feel loved and supported by each parent. Telling the children of the separation together is a good way to ensure that they feel supported. If you are unable to be in the same room at that time in the separation, try to be in close vicinity and allow the children to talk with both parents and ask questions. Be honest in your answers as best you can, without divulging the intimate details of the split. Refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent; this puts the children in the middle and makes them feel as though they have to pick a side. Badmouthing the other parent is never a good idea in any situation, control your anger in front of your children and don't discuss child support or other intimate details of the divorce in front of them. Make sure your children know that the divorce is not their fault and that it is not their responsibility to try to fix it. Make sure your children understand how their lives will change due to the divorce.
Continuing to provide structure and consistency in your children's lives will help them through this process. Make sure to follow through with plans and promises that you make with your children and don't make promises that you can't keep. If their normal bedtime is 9pm, make sure they go to bed on time when they are spending time at your home. Making sure their schedules are consistent will help keep them on track.
Be supportive of your children's relationship with the other parent, when they come back from a visit and are excited to tell you about it, listen to them even if it is hard for you to hear. Keep a positive attitude and remember you are the best role model they have.
Although your roles as husband and wife have ended, your roles as mom and dad will never end. These are roles that you will continue to have for the rest of your life. As your children get older, they will request both of you to attend special occasions. This will be much easier if you can begin your separation with the right attitude and commitment to your children.
Be careful not to punish your children for the divorce by refusing to attend special events because the other parent will be there or withholding visitation because the other parent didn’t pay child support. These actions only hurt the children and these are things they will remember and possibly resent you for later on in life.
Love and support are the best ways to show your children that you are committed to them and will always be there for them no matter what.
Research shows that children adjust better to a divorce when their parent's post divorce relationship is better than it was during marriage. This provides some cognitive rationale for why the divorce happened and how things are better in some ways as a result. Try to ensure that your post divorce relationship with your former spouse is as positive as possible and that your children continue to experience the familial love that was and will continue to be critical to their development.