Thinking of divorce? Just filed? Mired in the process that seems endless? Been divorced for years? Here are some tips to be a better parent during divorce, and these tips are both to help your children and to help your case.
- Stop the arguing in front of the children. There was probably enough of that when you were still together. Now that you’re separated, cut it out. It hurts your kids and it makes the judge mad. Don’t make the judge mad. Disengage.
- Cope how you need to cope, but if drugs or alcohol is your mechanism of choice, keep either far, far away from your children. There’s nothing – other than domestic violence – that’s going to lose your kids for you faster than drug and alcohol abuse. Is it a problem? Acknowledge it and get help immediately.
- Move as quickly as you can past the intense emotions when dealing with your ex. Try to think of your relationship as a business deal, and treat it as such. This is extremely difficult, but also very valuable and will help you in the long run.
- Save the trash talk for a dinner out with friends. Don’t let your children know how you are feeling about your ex. This only causes them to be conflicted in their feelings for their other parent. Don’t make them feel guilty for loving their parent, which is how they will feel if you tell them how awful your ex has been to you.
- Jump into another relationship if you must, but keep the children away from it for far longer than you want to. The blush of infatuation – and feeling wanted again – may be something you want to shout from the rooftops, but your children will be confused and perhaps angry by it. Give it time before introducing a new special someone.
- Similar to saving the trash talk, don’t think you “owe it” to your children to let them know why you are divorcing. They don’t need to know. What they need to know is that you and your ex love them very much, and that the divorce is *not* their fault. This may need to be repeated again and again.
- Expect that your children will act out during the divorce. Grades will slip, tantrums will intensify, and some tough love may be in order. What you must keep in mind is that your children need you, and that the acting out is normal and not some reflection of how poorly your ex parents. Instead of taking the bad behavior and using it as ammunition against your ex, understand that it’s your children that need love and attention, and perhaps punishment.
- Understand that the divorce is really tough on your children, just like it is on you. They’re going to be confused, angry, depressed, hurt, and disoriented. Do what you can to keep their lives as normal as possible. Don’t move if you don’t have to, don’t change their schools or activities. If you’re the one in a new location, try to make it as normal and comfortable as possible. Your kids will thank you … later.
Divorce is tough on everyone. Remember this and you can help to not make it worse than necessary for your children.