As a practicing family lawyer for over 15 years, the children at the center of a divorcing family are always at the forefront of my mind. Divorce can have a serious impact on their young lives but there are a few things you can do to make sure that your divorce doesn’t negatively impact your children.
Assure Them That Both Parents Still Love Them
Your children need to know that both parents still love them and that they are free to love both parents. Invite the kids to keep a picture of the other parent in their bedroom. Regularly remind them of the many ways that the other parent is supporting them in their activities. Encourage them to spend time with the other parent. All these things help your child adjust and feel secure in the love of both parents.
Family Stories Matter
Just because your family is changing doesn’t mean that you should stop telling your family stories.
Keep telling stories about your family traditions and the great times you’ve shared together. These stories assure your kids that they are loved by both parents and that their family history is still meaningful. That’s something that they can carry forward into their new life.
Watch Your Words
Finally, watch what you say. Your children are listening. Parents often think their children are too young to understand. Or that they’re speaking quietly and the children can’t hear. But this isn’t the case. Our children are little sponges, and they soak everything up.
It’s not only your words but also your emotions that you need to be guarded with when your children are nearby – especially when you are talking about the other parent. Only say positive things about him or her within earshot of your child.
There are situations where that will be very hard to do.
Perhaps there has been domestic violence in the marriage, addiction issues, or the other parent has abandoned the family. These are tough situations but talking negatively about the parent is not a good thing. And it is misguided to think that your children “…need to know the truth about what’s going on”.
You don’t have to have all the answers. It’s okay for your children to see that you are experiencing sadness too, but don’t burden them with your emotions. If you are having a tough time coming to terms with divorce yourself, talk to your friends or a professional therapist.
At Hargrave Family Law, we know that living in a broken marriage is a really hard place to be, both for you and for your children. And so in the long run, taking this next step can be a really great thing for your family. We have resources that are available to help, and we would love to help you plan for that next chapter.