Explaining Divorce to Your Children — And Helping Them Through It
As all family law attorneys in Georgetown, Texas and the surrounding area will tell you, explaining divorce to your children at the right time is the key to maintaining a positive relationship with them. When going through a divorce, it is important you keep your relationship with your children in mind. They are not specifically involved in the divorce, but it will affect their lives and your relationship with them.
Divorce mediation lawyers in Austin, Texas and everywhere across the nation are focused on making your divorce as non-confrontational as possible for you and your children. Uncontested divorces are usually just a matter of agreeing to terms and making everything legally binding. Divorce mediation can reduce the fighting and bitterness, which will make the whole process easier on your children.
Child support and alimony attorneys in Texas will tell you that children tend to be affected the most by a divorce. Children can come through a divorce with more independence and a stronger relationship with one or both parents, though. It is possible to maintain a positive relationship with your children through your divorce. Read on to learn what you can do to help your children through this life change.
Talking With Children About Divorce
You may think you have kept your marital problems away from your children, but they can be very perceptive. Children can sense when their parents are fighting, even if you do not fight in front of them. They may not know exactly what is going on, but they sense that something is wrong.
Keeping your divorce a secret from your children until it is final may not be the best way to maintain a good relationship. When they find out the truth, they may lose trust in you because you shut them out.
It is better to talk with your children about your divorce than try to hide it from them. Eventually they will know about it, so it is better they hear it from you. When you don’t explain to your children what is happening, they will make guesses and assumptions that may not be accurate.
When you approach the subject of divorce with your children, try:
Tailoring the Message to Them
Being honest with your children about your divorce is always good advice. Children tend to do best with a simple and clear statement about what is happening around them. It’s the details you may want to alter to fit your children.
The details of a divorce involve a lot of adult concepts. Children, especially younger ones, see the world through a different lens and can be confused by adult logic. You’ll want to use age-appropriate language and level of detail for younger children.
Remember that your children are not really a part of the divorce. It is just between you and your spouse, so your children do not need to know too many details or be involved in a lot of the back and forth.
Holding Back the Blame
Children have a way of taking on responsibility for problems between their parents. Without any information from you, your children may assume the divorce is their fault. They may misinterpret something you said when you were angry and think they caused the divorce by misbehaving. They might also believe one of their parents is choosing to leave them behind.
You will want to explain to your children that no one is to blame for the divorce. It certainly isn’t their fault. Placing fault for the divorce on anyone could hurt your relationship with your children. Blame can be very dangerous in this situation.
Although you may feel the urge to show your children that you are the better parent by blaming the divorce on your spouse, this position can backfire very quickly. Recognize that your children have two parents, and their loyalty to each of you is equal. Placing blame on their other parent can be as painful as taking the blame yourself, and it may drive a wedge between you and your children.
Continuing to Parent Together
Although you are divorcing each other, you and your spouse will continue to parent your children. For matters of parenting, they need to see you as one entity: “the parents.” It will be easier for your children to get used to you not living together if you continue to parent together, and they know they can count on both of you even after the divorce.
Talking to your children about your divorce is one thing you can still do together with your spouse. It will help your children accept this information when it comes from both of you at the same time. It will be good for them to see that although your marriage is ending, you are still cooperating on your parental duties.
Getting your message straight is important. If your children hear different information from each parent, it will only confuse them. Going through the divorce of their parents may be difficult enough for your children without the added confusion of trying to figure out which parent is telling them the truth and whose rules they now need to follow.
Acknowledging the Emotions You Feel
Just as you are riding an emotional rollercoaster as the divorce progresses, your children are having their ups and downs, too. You have the maturity to understand there is a reason for this pain, and in time it will end. For children, emotional upheaval can feel terminal, and they may not know how to cope with that feeling.
Sharing some of your emotions with your children can help bring you closer together at this time of division. It can also validate what they are feeling at the same time. Your children will know it is ok to feel sad or hurt if they know you are feeling the same way. Talking about your emotions with your children will help them see the pain will not last forever.
Children may benefit from opportunities to discuss their feelings or even vent their anger. Their behavior may be negatively affected by those pent-up emotions. They may need help expressing what they are feeling and understanding the emotions they are going through. Focusing on your children’s feelings may also give you a chance to recover from your own.
If emotions become too difficult to handle, consider seeking help. Many children and parents benefit from counseling while they are going through a divorce. Your children may need an outsider to safely express their feelings to, and the professional feedback they get could guide them through the mixture of emotions to a stronger outcome.
Holding on to Love
Love is an important connection that children have with their parents, even in families that don’t talk about it often. The divorce may cause your children to be concerned that they will lose the love of one or both of their parents. Sometimes that fear is reinforced when divorcing parents spend all of their time and energy fighting with one another, talking about the divorce or isolating themselves.
Children who are going through a divorce need frequent reminders that both of their parents love them and will continue to love them no matter what. Reminders of your love for your children can take the form of definitive statements or declarative actions. Holding them close, listening to their stories and participating in activities with your children are all ways to reassure them of your love.
Keeping Communication Open
It’s a good idea to remember throughout the divorce that your children are affected by it but not part of the divorce. You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse still have a responsibility to your relationship apart from your children. If you choose to reduce your contact with one another, that is your choice.
If you want to maintain a good relationship with your children, however, you need to consider them in the communication loop. Reducing your communication with your ex by using your children to shuttle messages back and forth will have a negative effect on your children.
Sometimes children of divorce use the distance between their parents to manipulate the situation. They can say whatever they want to one parent about the other and know the parents will never confer with each other. You may want to talk to your children about keeping the lines of communication open, at least for parenting discussions and information.
During any time of emotional turmoil, we all need a constant to hang on to. For many adults, when things are not good at home, they use work as their escape and vice-versa. Your child’s equivalent to work is school. For many children, the routine of school is a comfort when home life is changing.
As your divorce progresses, and certain changes take place at home, it would be a good idea to hang onto any routines your children have. School is a good one for most kids. Social routines such as visiting relatives or playing with friends are important to maintain. You don’t want your children to lose touch with the other people in their lives who might provide comfort and support to them at this difficult time.
Maintaining your own regular routines with your children is important, as well. Continuing the Saturday morning pancake ritual or keeping up with your evening bike rides together will help reassure your children that they are still loved. It is a good idea to go ahead with your normal routines, even if you need to make small adjustments to accommodate your new living arrangements.
Parents are always concerned that their divorce will have a negative outcome on their children. It is just a natural tendency of parents to want to protect their children from harm. Working through the divorce with your children, helping them understand what is happening, letting them express their emotions and enthusiastically planning for the future with them will ease your children through your divorce.
Projecting the Future
Even under the best circumstances, going through a divorce is not fun for anyone. There are emotional questions about love, commitment and family. There are financial concerns about dividing up your household. There is also the fear of the unknown that lies ahead.
For your children, the unknown can be the scariest part of your divorce. You can remember a time when you were not married and did not live with your spouse. Your children may not have ever experienced that. For their whole lives, they have always lived with both parents together. They have no idea what to expect in the future.
Of course, you know that once the divorce is behind you, the future will be bright. It is important to share this vision with your children. Imagining and planning the future you will have after the divorce can be a good way to strengthen your relationship.
Making them a part of some of the future planning will give your children hope and something positive to focus on. You may want to include them in setting up the new living arrangements, such as choosing colors for their new room or figuring out the logistics for two birthday celebrations. Helping your children envision the future and plan for it in positive ways can help ease them through the divorce.
Developing a Support System
As children grow, they move away from their parents as their only support system and turn toward friends for their ideas, tastes and opinions. This is a natural phenomenon well documented by child development specialists. No matter what age your children are now, they will eventually go through this process.
While their parents are divorcing, children need others they can turn to for support. You may want to connect your children with neighborhood kids or classmates whose parents are also divorced. It could help you maintain a strong relationship with your children by acknowledging they need the support of someone who has been in their situation.
In many communities, there are support groups for children of divorce that churches and civic organizations run. Find the resources and encourage your children to get involved. Over time, they could go from needing the support of others to providing that support to newcomers in the group. It could be a way for them to develop independence and leadership, making a good outcome from a bad experience.
When most people think about divorce attorneys, they think of the high-priced, cut-throat lawyers portrayed in the media. Some divorce and family law attorneys in Georgetown, Texas might be like that, but at Morales, Huie & Sparks, our lawyers are compassionate advocates for people. We recognize that every family has different needs, but taking care of your children is a common bond.
Divorce happens for many reasons, all of which can have emotional consequences for children. At Morales, Huie & Sparks, we treat each divorce as if it were taking place in our own family. We work hard to ensure the best interests of our clients, move the process along as quickly as practical and actively pursue what is best for the children.
If you need divorce lawyers in Austin, Texas or the surrounding area, contact Morales & Sparks. Let our experienced counsel understand your vision for your family’s future and help you bring it to life.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and is not to be constituted as legal advice. If you need help with a specific issue, please seek the advice of an attorney.