- Never put your children in the middle or involve them in your issues. This is easier said than done and many otherwise wonderful parents make this mistake. The hurt, guilt, anger and/or other strong emotions caused by the breakdown of a marriage can blind us to our actions. It’s not about just avoiding the obvious: asking the children to pick sides, to judge the other parent, to state their residence preferences, to hide information from the other parent or allowing the children to be privy to information concerning the court case. It’s also about controlling our emotions, taking the high road, being the parent, maintaining consistency and doing our very best to co-parent during this most difficult time.
- Assure, reassure, and re-reassure the children that the break-up is not their fault. No matter how unreasonable, kids almost always blame themselves in some way for their parents’ dissolution of marriage. “If I acted better…. If I listened more…. If I got better grades…. If I didn’t fight with my brother/sister….” Let them know, together and often, that it is not something they caused.
- If at all possible (no danger to safety exists), have the first discussion of divorce with the children together. Presenting a unified front – without blame – will be one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. It is then that you can assure them that it has nothing to do with them, that you will still be there for them and that you will do everything possible to protect them and that they will be OK.
- Promptly notify school counselors and other important caregivers of the pending divorce. They do not need to know any details or take sides. The purpose is to have these people keep an eye on the children for any changes in behavior or development so that they can be properly addressed. The more support the children receive during this time, the better.
- Keep your divorce in perspective. During and leading up to divorce, your life is overwhelming and seems out of control. Your future uncertain. Although the breakup of your marriage will bring about many changes in your life and the effects of divorce will be something you need to deal with going forward, your life will go on. Most people are able to find peace and happiness in their “new reality.” Making a conscious effort to focus on the positive and not dwell on the negative will help both yourself and your children. Children always know more than parents think. And they follow your lead. Show them that divorce is a problem to be solved, not a battle to be won or lost. Divorce does not have to ruin your life