In terms of the potential psychological damage to a child, divorce can be nearly as bad as a parental death. It can destabilize your children’s lives, create negative emotions, change the way they perceive themselves and undermine the relationships with their primary caregivers.
No parent should have to sacrifice their own safety or mental health just to keep the children from experiencing divorce. Thankfully, if you are conscientious in your approach to divorce, it doesn’t have to be a devastating experience for your children. The three suggestions below minimize how hard divorce is for your children.
- Keep their daily lives as consistent as possible
One of the big issues divorce causes is the disruption of a child’s daily lives and their expectations of how the world operates.
You and your ex can minimize this by maintaining the same routine, keeping the children enrolled in the same school and otherwise trying to prioritize stability. Having the same rules at both houses, the same bedtime and the same daily schedule will make the transition easier on everyone in the family.
- Don’t put them in the middle
Feeling like they have to choose between parents can be one of the most disastrous emotional experiences of divorce. A child loves both of their parents, regardless of what has happened in their parents’ relationship.
If they feel like they have to choose between the parents, that can damage their sense of self and their bond with both of the parents, regardless of what choice they make. Additionally, the pressure involved in needing to talk to a judge can be a major source of stress for some children.
Don’t make your children choose between you, and also don’t try to convince them that you are the better or more loving parent.
- Keep things positive about your ex
Whether you decided to divorce because of infidelity or incompatibility, you probably have some negative feelings toward your ex. You need to find a healthy outlet for those thoughts and emotions, such as therapy, creative arts or a support group.
Your children should not be your therapist or your support group. They don’t need to hear anything negative about your ex, even if the other parent has sole responsibility for the end of your marriage. While your children are young, keeping things simple when explaining the divorce and not placing blame on anyone is usually the best approach.
All of these rules will also make the transition easier on you and your co-parent if you can commit to putting the kids first while sharing custody.