Steps to Save Your Kids in Divorce
Special Tips for Protecting your Kids During Divorce
Reports on the effects of divorce on adult children find that “even though they’re no longer kids, adult children may still carry the weight of divorce and unresolved childhood issues on their shoulders.” These effects often include an aversion to long-term commitment and heightened stress around family interactions.
But what about younger children?
Experiencing the divorce of your parents at a young age can have a long tail of side-effects. Divorce can shake the trust the child has in the world and lead to insecurity, fear and paranoia. Children are often saddled with too much responsibility—or too much information—in the post-divorce reality in their family.
My guest this week, Julie Ross, is founder and Executive Director of Parenting Horizons, an organization devoted to enriching children’s lives through parent and teacher education. She is a psychologist and author of a number of books including Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex.
Ross discussed tips for protecting your children through the divorce process.
The first rule, she says, is not keeping secrets from your child or ask them to keep secrets on your behalf. “Secrets destroy families, period, end of sentence,” she emphasizes. “So don’t keep secrets.”
Children of divorce can feel stuck in the middle of a power struggle between their parents. Psychology Today focused on ten important “golden rules” for avoiding this damaging practice.
- No Blame Games: when you talk about the divorce with—or in front of—your children, lay off pointing fingers. Children need to have clean relationships with their parents, devoid of guilt or anger.
- Don’t Put the Other Parent Down: this goes as much for general criticisms of the parent as for their parenting styles. No matter how angry you are, and even if the other parent has shirked their parenting duties, it’s important that you not jump in and criticize.
- Be Fair: try as best you can to come to an equitable agreement with your ex in terms of how much time—and important time such as holidays and birthdays—they get to spend with your child. Again, it’s about keeping the child in mind. And it’s important for them to have both parents participating in their lives.
- Consistency and Predictability: children thrive in stability, so do what you can to provide a stable home, school and social life for them.
- Pay Attention to the Unique Needs of Each Child: every child is different, and their reactions to the divorce may also differ. Treat them accordingly.
- Watch your Language: use child-appropriate language in discussing the divorce and communicating with your ex.
- Consider Co-operative Co-Parenting: seek out resources to help you effectively co-parent even after the split.
- Developmentally Appropriate Sound Bytes: remember that you are communicating with a child who may only hold onto a few words or phrases. Be mindful.
- Be Honest: the long tail of side effects from experiencing divorce as a child has a lot to do with honesty. It’s part of the stability of their world.
- Validation: don’t hesitate to validate feelings, both positive and negative. This goes to assuring kids that what they’re experiencing is real and that nothing is being kept from them.
Divorce with children is hard. But there are real steps you can take in your communication that can mitigate the impact of the divorce, and even lead to a happy, fruitful parent-child relationship.
If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.