Going through a divorce is tough. And when you are a parent, the divorce process can be more tough. Not only do you have to take care of yourself, but you have children to care for. This can be a huge weight especially if you and your soon-to-be ex are in conflict with each other.
Your kids are your responsibility
You may not feel like it all the time, but you have choices in life. Will you pursue divorce? Will you move? What will you eat for dinner? Who will you spend time with? You have choices. Your children do not have choices. They are your responsibility. Their happiness, security and growth as human beings falls largely on you. Take this seriously and move it to the front of your mind if you are thinking about or going through a divorce.
Kids need to be kids. That’s it. The list below of kid-focused suggestions are relevant for wherever you are in the divorce process and overall good parenting practices. Some seem so obvious to me but recent experiences with my own clients tell me that they cannot be stated enough.
- Tell your children that they are loved and that they matter.
- Assure your children that your circumstances and/or divorce is not their fault. Repeat this often.
- Do not disparage the other parent or speak negatively about them in front of your children.
- If you are in an abusive situation, get out. Your children should not see their parent get beat up or verbally assaulted by their other parent. If your children are being abused in any way, you must get them out and get them help! The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a good first step. Call 1-800-799-7233.
- Consider mental health counseling for your children. Talking to a neutral (ie. non-parent) and skilled professional can be a huge help to your children during a difficult time which often yields a lot of changes in their lives.
- If you and your ex need help communicating and working through daily arrangements with your children, co-parenting counseling may improve things. This is not marital therapy – the purpose of this counseling is to help you communicate better in the future for the sake of your children.
- If you are unsure about what to tell your kids about the divorce or how best to parent them, schedule a session with a Parenting Coach or mental health therapist for some advice.
- Read books and articles about parenting through divorce. There are so many great resources on this subject. Take advantage of them. A suggested reading list is in Chapter 4 of my book, Divorce Wisdom.
- Get physically and mentally health yourself. Your children rely on you and you owe it to them to be present and well to care for them. Moreover, your children learn from your lead and actions. Start now.
- Show up and show your love. Attend your kids’ activities, games, concerts and school conferences even if your ex is at the same events. You don’t have to talk to or sit next to your ex. Remember that you are a grown-up and it matters to your kids if you are there.