Parental divorce is a known trauma for children. Sociologists and psychologists alike recognize the negative impact parental divorce can have on everything from academic performance and social relationships to self-esteem.
Although some negative consequences stemming from a divorce are unavoidable, that doesn’t mean that your children have to suffer because of your relationship circumstances. You can take the three steps below to help make divorce a little bit easier on your children.
Find a safe space to process your own feelings
No matter how certain you are that divorce is the right solution for your current family situation, you will likely still have to grieve your relationship. Finding a local support group or speaking to a counselor who can help you explore and analyze your feelings. When you understand and recognize your own emotions, you will have an easier time controlling them during custody exchanges and other interactions with your ex.
Give your children space and support for their own emotional processes
Depending on the age of your children, their relationship with you and the situation surrounding the divorce, your children may have overpowering emotions ranging from guilt to rage regarding your decision to separate.
Honoring and recognizing their emotions when you interact with the children is important, as is not punishing them for appropriately expressing even strong negative emotions. Like you, your children may benefit from seeing a counselor or attending a support group where the focus is on helping children adjust to the transitions of parental divorce.
Keep your children as far from the conflict as possible
Creating a distance between your children and parental conflict is important in both a metaphorical and a physical sense. If you are going to argue or discuss difficult topics, you should do so in a space where the children cannot overhear or see you. The same is true for conversations you have with friends are other parts of your support network.
You don’t want the children to hear the two of you arguing, and you don’t want to expose them to your most negative emotions and thoughts. Shielding them from anger can make it easier for them to adjust to your changing family circumstances.
Divorce and shared custody will be hard for everyone in your family at first. Keeping the focus on your children and their emotional well-being and make for a less contentious divorce and an easier adjustment period for your children.