The process of going through divorce is one of the most challenging experiences that many couples face. Yet while spouses need to pick up the pieces of their lives, figure out their new financial reality and still be a good parent, the impact divorce has upon children is also life-changing.
Nearly every parent states that their children are the priority when the spouses separate. But a parent is going through a lot of change in their life and may temporarily lose sight of their priorities. A recent article by noted California-based clinical psychologist Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D., is an excellent reminder to separated parents of how they can make the transition go more smoothly for the children, particularly if there are indications that the situation may escalate before it is finished.
- Sit down and talk to your kids: Studies show that about 5 percent of parents do this when the marriage is breaking up. Tell them in simple or age appropriate terms what the split means and how the divorce will affect them, and not affect them.
- Mind what you say: Do not discuss the details of the divorce when children are in the room or within potential earshot. Do not leave legal papers lying around for children to find.
- Behave civilly around the family: Parents should avoid fighting in front of the kids, even if they have done it in the past. If things need to be hashed out, do it in a lawyer’s office or outside the house. Do not put the children the middle and then expect them pick sides.
- Both parents stay in the picture: If you are the father who moves out, make sure to stay active in the daily lives of the children by helping with homework, cooking meals and other daily rituals. Studies show that involvement by both parents leads to happier and healthy children who grow into well-adjusted adults.
- Deal with anger appropriately: Do not take that anger out on the kids or speak disparagingly about an ex-spouse in front of the children.
Our next post will continue this discussion with five more tips from Dr. Kelly. Our extensive family law website and blog are also an excellent resource for those facing a broad range of legal, parental and individual issues involving the family.