Divorce is hard for you but it can be easier for your children if you follow these 8 steps.
"The best thing you can do for your child is love their mother."
That is my favorite quote of all time because it speaks volumes about parenting and says nothing about marriage. You can also change the word mother to father and the meaning is exactly the same!
Here are eight things to think about concerning your children and divorce:
1. Should I Stay In This Marriage For My Kids?
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, you should stay if you're not strong in your own convictions to get out. You need to feel confident in your decision in order to handle the emotions the kids will also go through.
You should not stay in the marriage for your kids especially if there is abuse — domestic violence or sexual abuse. Your kids’ relationships will reflect yours. They learn the basics of relationships based on their parent’s relationship, so remember, you are their role model and they will inevitably have the same relationships as you do.
2. Be Consistent With The Custody Plan
If the plan is that every weekend the children are with their mother, then every weekend should stick to that pre-discussed plan. If the plan is that they're with a different parent every other day, then they should consistently be with a different parent every other day.
This may sound stressful to move kids every other day but there is still consistency in the plan, which is predictable for children. They will get used to that plan and that will become their new normal.
There will always be a need for compromise while parenting children separately. A consistent plan is by far better than no plan because that’s when things remain more volatile and stressful for children.
3. Set Similar Rules In BOTH Homes
You should have the same rules but modified because consistency and rules make kids feel safe, even adolescents. If you feel guilty and let them get away with more while they're upset about the divorce it will cause them to feel more vulnerable and not safe.
Kids need to face accountability for their behavior even though you're going through a divorce. During times of role shifting or stress such as with a divorce, children need firmer limits not more fluid ones. They need to know that without a doubt that someone besides them is in charge.
4. Communicate With Your Partner (Or Soon-To-Be Ex) For The Kids
You will always have a relationship with that person whether you like it or not. This is the mother/father of your kids. The losing side of this situation will be the kids if their parents cannot get along enough to parent.
You will undermine each other's parenting for a chance at vengeance, while your kids will learn to manipulate you and make you and your ex angrier with each other so they get what they want. Younger kids will face depression, regress in behaviors, wetting the bed, baby talk, crying often, clinging, etc.
5. Don't Have Conversations With Your Ex Through Your Kids
Many times because parents don't want to talk to each other, they talk through the kids. Bad idea! The kids will minimize, maximize, or distort the words of your spouse, as well as feel resentful and angry toward the parents for putting them in the middle of a divorce.
6. Kids Don't Need To Know All The Details
Too much information can cause more confusion in kids because they don't understand. Or it gives them a false sense of power, and they may believe that they can fix it. Kids of all ages feel that they caused the divorce and that they have the power to fix it because they want the parents to get back together.
The less negative comments about your ex, the better. Kids will resent you for talking bad about their parent even if he/she did something wrong.
7. Follow The Golden Rule
This is true in all aspects of life. If you treat your customers poorly they will not come back. If you treat your friends poorly, you risk losing them as your friends. If you treat your boss poorly, you risk losing your job. That also goes for your ex-spouse.
It's illogical to believe that if you put out negative you will get positive in return.
8. The Better You Two Get Along, The Healthier Your Children Will Be
Dealing with your own anger and grief is very important; however, your children are not the best support system. They can't be there for you! Your children will resent you for putting them in the middle of a very adult issue.
Speak with friends, family or a professional to transform your mental state into its healthiest form. When (or if) they see you cry or angry, explain that the situation is very stressful and assure them that you will be fine ... and they will too.
Remember that, in crisis, there is always change. And sometimes, in the moment, you might not realize that the change is for the better.