Divorce affects almost every aspect of your life, making it easy to lose sight of what’s important. Amid the chaos, there is one crucial part that you must prioritize: your children. Like you, they may also be grappling with grief, sadness and confusion. As a parent, your support during such a difficult time can shape how your children adapt and grow from the experience.
The effects of divorce on children
They may not always show it, but divorce affects children in many ways. Young children may not understand why their parents no longer love each other and worry that they no longer care for them either. Older children tend to blame themselves or grow to despise one or both parents.
Changes like new living arrangements or relationships are big adjustments that children may struggle with. They might perform poorly in school, become irritable or develop mental health issues. Without proper support, these difficulties may follow them into adulthood.
Putting your children first may help them cope better and ease your own transition as well.
Five strategies to put your children first during a divorce
To help your children cope with your divorce in healthy ways, consider the following strategies:
- Work out a co-parenting plan and stick to it. Establishing a mutual understanding with your ex-spouse about custody, communication channels and schedules can help minimize conflicts. Heated arguments between parents are highly damaging to children, highlighting the importance of being civil with your ex-spouse.
- Maintain consistency between households. Differing rules and discipline practices can confuse a child. It may even fuel disputes between you and your ex-spouse. While your parenting styles may differ, striving for consistency can give your child some stability.
- Model how you want your children to act. Exercise caution in how you talk about and to your ex-spouse. Children often mirror their parents, and your actions during and after the divorce can influence their behavior. Aim to be respectful and positive. If you have to, treat interactions with your ex like you would as a professional.
- Acknowledge and respect your children’s feelings. Children often feel isolated or struggle internally due to divorce. Creating a safe space may help them express their emotions. Practice active listening, avoid dismissing their feelings and consider seeking help from a therapist if needed.
- Be an active participant in your children’s lives. Continued support from both parents for children’s hobbies and extracurricular activities can reassure children that they are not alone. It also strengthens their relationships and prevents children from choosing between parents.
Divorce can be rough, but don’t let it take your focus away from your child. With your support, they can adapt better to the changes that come with divorce, which ultimately benefits you as well.