The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Our Kids Survive Divorce
Divorce is a stressful and sometimes traumatic event. A partnership that we entered, expecting it to be “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health,” all of a sudden is ending and may leave us feeling lost and adrift. Our future may be uncertain, our finances may be a mess, and our self-esteem may be almost non-existent.
But we aren’t the only ones affected by a divorce. In-laws and grandparents can feel some of the pain, but most of all, I think that if there are kids involved they may suffer the worst. They can get caught in the middle of a war zone. They may be shuttled from one home to another, and start calling it “mom’s house” and “dad’s house” instead of “my house.” They may feel that they are responsible for the breakup, or may begin to wonder if mommy and daddy will ever fall out of love with them like they did with each other.
So what can we do to keep the kids from being collateral damage? I’ve worked with kids in a lot of capacities and have come up with a few suggestions for things to do and not do:
1) Whatever you can to be sure the kids know that you will love them forever, and that just because you no longer love your spouse, your love for your children will never go away.
2) Take advantage of any counseling services available.
3) Understand that while your spouse is now your ex, unless there was abuse involved, the ex is still the parent and the kids need both parents.
4) Make sure that the kids know that they are in no way responsible for the split and that there’s nothing they could have done, done better, or not have done, to have kept it from happening.
5) Maintain a sense of normalcy to whatever extent possible. Their world is also falling apart, and anything you as the parent can do to help them keep it together is a must.
6) Remember that they are the kids and you are the parent.
1) Use them as spies. If you want to know who your ex is dating, ask him/her. Or hire a private investigator. Don’t put the kids in a position of snitching on a parent.
2) Use them as bargaining chips. Custody and visitations should never ever be used as leverage to get something else, especially revenge.
3) Complain about or criticize the ex in front of the kids. They do not need to know about whatever went on between the two adults.
4) Don’t fall into the “absent parent syndrome.” Spoiling, lessening expectations, and backing off on the discipline is not a good idea. The kids may not realize it but at this point, structure and consistency as far as discipline is concerned is essential.
5) Lean on them for emotional support. They’re kids and need to experience their childhood. A child on whom the parent leans becomes the parent and misses out on his/her childhood.
6) Ever forget that you are the parent and as such are responsible for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the child.
Divorce is painful, and watching the two people they love more than anything is the world go through it can be earth shattering for the kids. So anything we as the parents can do to help our kids cope is incredibly important and should be right at the top of our list of priorities.
Written by: Tricia Doane, Rust Built, Marketing Services