Divorce can be tough on everyone involved — even when your marriage was unhealthy. Sure, the separation will help you heal as a person, but breakups can be emotionally taxing as you are losing your attachment and relationship to someone who meant a lot to you. Seeing your parents part ways can also be a sad, frustrating or confusing experience.
To comfort your child through the difficulties of divorce, there are steps you should consider taking before, during and after the divorce is final. This can include self-help, ongoing conversations about divorce and separating your child from co-parent communication and conflict.
Take care of yourself
Parents know more than anyone else that putting others before themselves is not only a selfless and productive lifestyle, but more than necessary if you have children. However, neglecting your own mental health and well-being can snowball into larger problems down the line.
Essentially, seeing mommy or daddy sad can take a toll on kids. Plus, when parents don’t address mental illnesses like depression, children may feel more isolated, perform poorly at school or develop behavioral or health problems. So, as backwards as it may seem, taking care of yourself through the divorce process and after — from therapy to confiding in friends — can help your children in the long run.
Communicate clearly and consistently
You don’t have to tell your child the second you make the decision to divorce, but keeping them in the loop can help them ease into the situation. Telling them that they will be moving, splitting time between two homes and that they won’t get to see you every day can be a lot to spring on children all at once.
Even giving your children a fair warning and letting them know your decision to leave your spouse has nothing to do with them can leave them feeling upset. For that reason, it’s important to keep an open, casual dialogue about their life and feelings about adjusting to the divorce.
Don’t put children in the middle
Whether you fall into disagreements before the divorce or argue as co-parents, consider working on these issues without your children present. When parents don’t get along, children may feel like they have to pick a side, and, in turn, they will feel more connected to one parent over the other.
As you adjust to co-parenting, it’s also important to not have your children act as a messenger between you and your ex-spouse. The strongest way to get your message across is by directly speaking with your spouse. If you rely on your child to tell your co-parent something and they forget, it’s unfair to blame them when it shouldn’t be there job in the first place.
Married and divorced parents alike have a tough job and go through rough patches. The best approach to any major change is by taking it one day at a time.