Going through a divorce can be emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting. You and your ex may have decided to go separate ways, but you're still partners in raising your children.
Some parents worry a lot about their children through the divorce process. Other’s think that their children are too young to be impacted. The bottom line: most children go through a grief and adjustment period for about a year following their parents’ divorce. Of course, how they manage and how they cope has a lot to do with how their parents handle the process. Here are some ways to think it through:
1. There are no winners and losers in divorce.
Children still have the same parents after a divorce. While their story of a single household is changing, the story of their childhood is still unfolding. And divorce or not, the story has many more chapters that have yet to be told. Rest assured, the possibilities are endless.
2. Your children can have great relationships with both of you.
Just because you and your ex are going your separate ways, your children can still enjoy time with both of you. Asking or wanting your children to deny their parent is like asking them to deny half of who they are. When you support your children’s relationship with their other parent, you are in truth accepting your children unconditionally.
3. Avoid venting to your children about their other parent.
Ok, so there may be times when you don’t agree with your ex—after all there are reasons you two chose to divorce. It can be tempting to vent to your children about their other parent. In the short term, it may feel like a good emotional release and a way to create a bond of loyalty with your children. However, in the long run, it will hurt them and could ultimately undermine your relationship with them. If you need to talk, do it. Talk to friends, adult family, a therapist. Just make sure your children are out of earshot.
In fact, it's even good practice to avoid asking your kids about what goes on at your ex's home. Sometimes, we think good parenting means knowing everything that happens, but the collateral consequences can be that your kids feel stuck in the middle.
4. Be careful not to rely on your kids for emotional support though divorce.
It’s okay to be vulnerable, but be careful about relying on your children to address it and disclosing too much to them. Your children need to be children. Putting them in a position to be an emotional caretaker is a huge burden on them, forces them to choose sides and think in adult terms. Let your children be children. Don’t take them off that merry go round too early. We all only have one childhood.
5. Be kind to yourself.
Parenting is not about perfection. As parents’ part of our job is to model self-acceptance for our kids. Having a bad day? Worrying? Just plain old tired? It is a gift to let your children know that you are human too. We all have good days and bad days. You too make mistakes and can acknowledge them.
Children whose parents stay in a bad relationship suffer. Not only are they more likely to have mental health concerns, but they are less likely to have healthy relationships. Your child’s life is not defined by your divorce, unless you say it is.
Your divorce can be a turning point for your children, your ex, and you. Try not to get caught up with the label, focus more on how you move forward. At the end of the day, all our children want the same things: to know they are loved and that their parents will be there for them.
It’s also pretty great when they can see their parents move through tough times, recover, and write their next chapter.
To schedule an appointment with Robyn Strelitz, LMFT, call 512-434-0868.