Of all the issues a person faces during a divorce, the most important and sometimes overlooked is how the children will be affected by the process. Children often need extra attention before and during a divorce. With these basic guidelines, your children can successfully survive your divorce.
Draft a Child Agreement. This is a plan between you and your co-parent for how you will treat your children during and after your divorce. This Agreement simply reflects your intent and serves as a guide in troubled times. It can be a beacon of reasonableness in the heat of your divorce and after the divorce is final. For example, your Agreement might include the following:
- You will not engage in conflict in front of or within earshot of your children.
- You will not disparage your co-parent in the presence of or within earshot of your children.
- You will always treat your co-parent with respect (even if you think it’s not warranted).
- You will not attempt to turn your children against your co-parent.
- You will listen and provide physical and emotional support to your children.
Talk with your children. When getting ready to tell your children that you are getting divorced, try to implement the following:
- Speak to your children with your co-parent; they need to hear the information from both of you — together.
- Generalize rather than blame – share only the facts. Let your children know that divorce is the adults’ choice and it was a decision that both parents arrived at together.
- Let your children know your plans — communicate which parent (if either) is moving out, what the visitation schedule will be, how their lives will be affected, etc.
- Keep your children updated – there is no need to share divorce documents or details with your children but let them know if/when you will be going to mediation and when the divorce will be finalized.
- Keep talking – even when the divorce is final, your children will still need information and attention. Be cautious, do not overshare. Your children just want to know that they are loved and will continue to be supported.
Consider providing counseling for your children. Children often benefit by having someone other than a family member to speak to about their situation. More often than not this is a preventative step and establishes a relationship for the child with a trusted adult should an issue arise in the future.
Help your children become resilient. Resilience is the ability to recover from change, difficulties, misfortune and adversity. You can help your children develop resilience and guide them toward a successful adulthood by making sure they have the following:
- Your unconditional love
- Parents who are willing to be parents and who will reach out for help from others
- The freedom to just be kids –time and space to play, jump, make mistakes, etc. Your children must be free to meet the challenges of childhood and gain a sense of control over their future.
- Permission to grieve and express their emotions.
- Rules and boundaries – let your children know what is expected of them. Be consistent and predictable.
- Both parents – children need both parents. You might have to structure visitation for their safety, but don’t make them choose between parents.
A Collaborative Coach can assist parents before, during and after the divorce to accomplish the above points and help their children survive and thrive.
About the Blogger:
Katelyn Baxter-Musser, LCSW received her MSW from Arizona State University and her BA in psychology with a Minor in criminal justice from American University in Washington D.C. Katelyn has been in private practice in Maine since 2015 and prior to that lived in Arizona where she maintained her private practice and was a supervisor for a local mental health agency. Katelyn is a Certified Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapist and has extensive training in working with individuals, couples, and families who have experienced trauma. Katelyn was trained in Collaborative Law in 2017 and practices both collaborative law coaching and mediation. Katelyn takes a solution-focused approach to help clients identify their needs, find their voice, and develop communication skills to use long after divorce has ended.