Some children take their parents’ divorce in stride and quickly adjust to their new lifestyle, while others need more time to process big changes (like a move, a new school, or a joint custody arrangement). Still, every child needs to feel supported and loved during this unique time in his or her life.
Most Minnesota divorce attorneys can think of at least one divorce case where things were heated and contentious and the children suffered as a result. However, we’ve also seen even the most adversarial of spouses work together helping their children cope with a divorce. Here’s what those parents do to ensure their kids feel loved and supported.
Tell and Show Children They Are Loved
Children who feel torn between their parents are much more likely to experience negative effects due to the divorce. Studies have shown kids exposed to conflict between their parents or attempted parental alienation have higher cortisol levels than those whose parents cooperate to create a healthy co-parenting arrangement. By bad mouthing the other parent, you are really just hurting your child.
You can demonstrate your commitment to happy co-parenting by not bad mouthing the other parent ever, but especially when you break the news of your divorce. Make sure your kids know that even though things may be changing, no one is to blame, and they are deeply loved by both parents.
Utilize Therapy Sessions or A “Feelings Doctor”
Kids benefit greatly from therapy during transitional periods in life. A child of any age will appreciate having an educated third party who they can discuss their concerns with. A professional will most likely use cognitive behavioral therapy (along with other therapeutic methods) to help your child see the divorce in a new way, which is great for kids (and adults). Just as it is important to see the doctor for physical health, it is important to ensure mental health by seeing a “feelings doctor.”
Be As Straightforward As Possible
Talking is an important component to this process because it helps children process what’s happening without having as many anxious or unsure thoughts. Most parents already emphasize the importance of honesty to their children, so it’s important that you model that behavior if you want your actions to match your words. Try to answer your child’s questions about the divorce and child custody as honestly as possible while keeping things positive, hopeful and age-appropriate.
Have a Plan and Practice Patience
Your children are going to want to know the basics about how their lives will be affected. Where will I sleep? Do I have to move? Do I get to see my friends? Where will I keep my baseball card collection? How do I make sure I have my favorite pair of jeans on the right day? Who transfers the tuba before practice? Before you tell your kids about the divorce, have a plan and be ready to answer these questions with confidence. This will help them understand how the divorce will affect their life and their relationships with both parents. You can help your child feel supported by remaining patient and loving while he or she digests these big changes.
Kids are sensitive and intuitive creatures. You may think you’ve managed to keep your marital problems under wraps, but they generally sense something is wrong. You aren’t the only one living in a toxic environment. Odds are your child is feeling frustrated, angry, or sad too. Honor your child’s feelings in the moment to help them transition through the divorce at their own pace. With change comes fear. If you can give your children some certainty and lots of love, they will know they are safe and they are protected. Although their parents didn’t do marriage very well, they can have a shot at doing divorce well.
Edina Divorce Law Firm for Parents
Parents in Edina who are getting divorce and want the process to go smoothly choose to work with attorney Willow Anderson. Willow is an Edina divorce lawyer who tailors her services to your needs to make sure your divorce is handled efficiently and professionally. That way, you’re free to focus on your children during this trying time. Willow can also act as your Minnesota child support lawyer if you are the non-custodial parent. To learn more, reach out to Willow’s team by calling (651) 334-3244.