When talking about divorce, the focus often centers on the husband and wife. But numerous studies have emerged showing the long-term impact of divorce on children. This calls for a need to focus on helping kids cope with the mental and emotional difficulties they face when their parents decide to go their separate ways. Another factor that can have a negative consequence for children is when there is no direct communication used during the process. The moment you hire a divorce attorney to handle the legal aspect of the case, that is when things tend to escalate. The kids are almost always caught in the middle of two warring parties. This is why professional mediation is helpful during this time because it can be easy for parents to overlook the welfare of their offspring. When the divorce is child-centered, then you can be sure that your kids will feel protected and safe.
How does divorce effect children?
As mentioned above, numerous studies have been conducted to determine the exact impact that divorce can have on children. But one thing is for sure: the experience tends to be mostly negative. According to the research, preschoolers most experience heightened levels of anxiety and fear when their parents get a divorce. The older the child is, the better they are able to adjust to the situation. But there is still no guarantee that everyone can cope in the same way.
One of the negative emotional effects of divorce on children is that they might feel a sense of abandonment. When both parents are too focused on parting ways from each other, the kids may feel left out. There is no sense of continuity when it comes to family routines and they could be neglected. They have nowhere to turn to for a sense of security.
Older children tend to cope better because they have a deeper understanding of the circumstances. This does not mean, however, that they are not impacted in the same way. For divorcing parents, you need to strive to make your divorce less hostile and stressful. This will help ease the difficulty for your children.
If you are struggling with handling your divorce and your offspring, there’s no need to fear. There are several ways that you can get help in order to make the situation more manageable. Your goal should always be to minimize the negative effects of the situation on your children. The next time you feel like lashing out towards your ex-spouse, stop and think about what impact it will create on your kids.
You need to realign your priorities and focus on what will make the divorce process seamless. There are a few divorce options and strategies you can try to keep your offspring’s best interests in mind.
Strategies for Child-Centered Divorce
Tip 1: Study what Children say they need
It is a fragile time in your family life. Make sure you handle it with care and integrity. You can address your children’s needs when you integrate the following strategies into the divorce process. Many children believe that they had something to do with the divorce. They may remember times when they argued with their parents, got poor grades, or got into trouble. They may associate that conflict with their parents’ conflict and blame themselves. Also, some children may worry that their parents will stop loving them, or that they will never see the estranged parent again. Sometimes young children don’t understand the meaning and permanence of divorce. Sometimes they believe that it’s one parent’s fault or that someone else is to blame. Reassurance and consistency is important in the early days of divorce. See how children get impacted by divorce by reading about that here…
At Naked Divorce we believe in telling your children the same things over and over again to prove that there is consistency.
This list is taken from a study done at the University of Missouri where children of divorce were asked what they needed from their mom and dad. The list is written by children themselves:
- “I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please write letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.”
- “Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.”
- “I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.”
- “Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth.”
- “When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.”
- “Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mom and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.”
“Tell your children that although the love between mom and dad has changed, that this kind of love is different than love between mother and child. This love is forever and special.”
Treat your child’s confusion or misunderstandings with patience. Reassure your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they’re not responsible for the divorce. Gently clarify any misunderstandings about the custody arrangements.
Tip 2: Use the Child Needs Analysis Strategy
With a professional helping you out, you can implement a Child Needs Analysis strategy in your divorce procedure. The strategy is basically what it says it is: an opportunity to put your offspring’s needs before you and your ex-spouse. This starts with building direct communication with your ex instead of fighting or shouting at each other.
The goal is to minimize emotional turmoil as it can negatively impact your children the more they are exposed to it. You and your ex-spouse should commit to peaceful co-parenting. This means not arguing in front of the kids, not bashing your ex, and not including the children in the difficult aspects of the separation. An experienced divorce coach can help create an effective co-parenting plan to provide a stable and manageable and mutually agreed way to manage critical co-parenting issues. This will help you cope with the struggles of divorce, as well as educate you on how to address certain situations as they arise.
Tip 3: How you communicate with your children is key
Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points, right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest, but child-friendly, explanation.
- Provide continuity. Children need the sense of continuity provided by a certain amount of structure such as dependable meal and bed times, leisure and work times.
- Be consistent in routines and explanations of what happened. Children have very keen attention to detail when stressed. Repeat the same reason for your divorce several times if necessary. Sometimes they need to hear the same message 100 times.
- 80% of communication is related to tone and body language. Ensure you are calm and grounded before engaging in communication.
Tip 4: Focus on Collaborative Practice
The concept of collaborative practice is another growing trend in the field. This is another technique implemented by coaches that can eschew litigation altogether. You need to work with your respective lawyers through the legal processes you must take so you won’t have to go to court. Aside from a divorce coach, you need to work with other professionals such as financial specialists and child psychologists/therapists. The goal of this technique is to minimize the legal and emotional turmoil that you undergo. The smoother the process is, the less negative impact it will have on your child. You can also move on with your separate lives more peacefully.
Tip 5: Establish a Good Relationship With Your Ex
As difficult as it might sound, this is the most effective ingredient in a child-centered divorce. If you put your children as your first priority, you will be able to rise above the conflict. Communicate, not fight, with your ex-partner when there are issues to be resolved. When you focus on your own legal rights, it is easy to put blame on your ex-partner. Stop the blame game and focus instead on the emotional and mental needs of your offspring. This is also a practical measure because the money that can be used in court can be allotted for your children’s future needs instead. Think of every dollar spent on lawyers, as money stolen from your children’s education, and well-being.
The Ex-Factor Etiquette where there are children involved
Don’t expose your children to marital conflict. When children are involved in divorce it’s very important for parents to behave civilly. We accept that this can be hard. It might always be hard. But there will be times you have to see your ex, particularly at school events or if you need to discuss something related to their parenting. In these cases, the rules are easy:
- Don’t speak badly of your ex in front of your children ever. Respect your child’s right to have a relationship with their father and do not use your children as a go-between or carrier of nasty messages. KEEP your children out of any marital conflicts. Do not volunteer unsavory information about your ex in front of your children.
- Do not argue in front of your children. Be polite and set a good example for your children
- Prioritize having an amicable relationship with your ex. It is important that your children feel you are still presenting a united front. Make sure your marital settlement or divorce agreement is clear on ALL the details. This ensures that there are no misunderstandings in the future.
- Don’t give your children false hopes of their parents reuniting. It’s important that they do not receive confusing messages.
- If your ex does push your buttons, think ahead before you see them, ask yourself:
• What are the triggers?
• How will you keep the peace and stay calm?
• What do you want to achieve in your interactions with your ex?
Tip 6: Develop a Parenting Plan
At Naked Divorce, we support parents to arrive at a brilliant Parenting plan and we recommend that all divorced parents develop a parenting plan for their children. Most divorcing parents are understandably concerned about the custody status of their children because it defines how the major decision-making responsibilities will be allocated, and may influence where the children live. However, what primarily impacts the children’s lives is not their custody status but the schedule of time that they spend with each parent and the nuts and bolts of how that schedule is implemented.
This blueprint for the children’s care, is called the parenting plan, and should be a much more comprehensive document than the typical visitation agreement. A successful parenting plan needs to incorporate sufficient details to ensure children will not experience ongoing arguments and conflicts between their parents about the arrangements they are putting in place. A parenting plan could contain the amount of time that the children will spend with each parent, the time(s) and place(s) of handover, guidelines to holidays and vacations, calendar of joint schedule, joint parenting rules and guidelines so that there is consistency in parenting (including bedtimes, diet, watching television, homework etc.)
It has also been advised to include details such as what to do in the event of last minute delays or cancellations. It’s a good idea to share your parenting plan and divorce agreement with your children. This inclusion helps children look to the future with a sense of certainty and decreases the fear that parents are hiding something even direr than the divorce. Letting your children read the settlement agreement lets them know there are rules that govern your actions post-divorce, which you have agreed you are legally bound to obey. Even for the young child who wants the document read to them – and that usually lasts for about 2 paragraphs since most kids think it’s very boring – just hearing it and seeing it are reassuring.
At Naked Divorce we have comprehensive templates for brilliant Parenting plans used by parents from all over the world.
Tip 7: Reduce traumatic effects of a divorce on your children
Support them by helping them express emotions, and commit to truly listening to these feelings, without getting defensive. Listen and help them find words for their feelings, acknowledging their right to their feelings. Also let your children know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents. Read about traumatic results of divorce on kids here… and in part 2 here…
If you wish to read letter template texts for communicating with kids, be sure to sign up for the Naked Divorce newsletter or book a Clarity call to discuss the programs we have on offer to help children adjust to divorce. Setting your own emotions aside in a difficult time such as divorce is not always easy. But it can be if you re-align your focus on your kids. With the help of a divorce coach, you can craft the right plans to make the process child-centered. Mediation can help you think straight instead of letting your emotions impact your decisions.