Getting out of a miserable marriage is good for you and often for your kids as well. But if not dealt with correctly your kids are at risk for the short and even long term. You need to keep their best interests in mind in order to minimize the psychological damage to them of their mother and father breaking up.
This child oriented focus will sometimes require you to sacrifice your time and priorities. That is a challenge when you are working on rebuilding your own life. It does not mean you become selfless, but that you keep in mind their needs while making your decisions about work, visitation and home.
The following Ten Commandments are a guideline for keeping that child focus so our child will grow up happy and emotionally secure after divorce.
What to do
1 – Protect your child from anger - Children need to know that their parents are in control of themselves. When a parent is out of control a child worries about their parent’s ability to take care of them. Make sure you do not fight with your ex either in front of the kids or on the phone that they can hear. That means you don't raise your voice or yell and certainly don't insult or verbally abuse your ex. You can have disagreements as long as your tone of voice is moderate.
2. Set up regular one on one time: You have an extra busy schedule now. But your child needs more than physical needs taken care of. Your child needs you to give them your attention to make them feel you are still there for them. It means playing games with them, reading stories, and even doing something like cooking together.
3. Give Reassurance: It is normal for children to feel that it is their fault that their parents have argued and that are now divorced. They may feel it is because they were not as "good" as they should have been. Explain to them clearly that they are not responsible.
4. Confidence in the Future: Acknowledge the present challenge and loss of the intact family. Let them know that you have faith that it will be better in the future. Keep an open channel of communication to allow them to ask any questions they may have. You may even buy an age appropriate book about children of divorce as a way of opening them up to accepting their own feelings.
5. Recognize the Divorce as Sad: It is helpful to present the reality of divorce as a sad event in their lives. Allow them to mourn the loss of an intact family unit. You want to validate the challenges they face with the new family situation and try to present it as a positive move forward for everyone.
What Not to Do
6. Don't Instill Guilt: Children need to be left out of the warfare that inevitably goes on after or in the midst of divorce. They should not be made to feel guilty for loving and wanting a relationship with both parents.
7. Don't Be Dishonest: Tell them the truth about the divorce without an emotional charged unspoken message. Children pick up when they are not being told the truth and it increases their insecurity. Balance what you tell them without getting into the gory details