Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase.
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone, and navigating this hurdle won’t come without conflict. That makes it all the more important that when you talk to your children about it, you remain a united front, explain it calmly, and be loving parents first.
There are plenty of extra steps you can take to make this reality easier to handle. Prepare for the conversation, and don’t shy away from it or the feelings that will result. Make sure you’re both on board with helping your children overcome this obstacle along with you.
Tell Them Together
Once you and your spouse reach this conclusion, it’s still important that you remain a united parenting front. After all, while your marriage may have changed, your role as parents will always be the same.
This is not the time to place blame or argue about whose responsibility it is to break the news. Using personal pronouns like “we” instead of “I” will ensure that your children understand it’s what both of you want. They don’t need to see the ins and outs of a crumbling relationship. What they need is two parents who still love them, no matter what.
Your children also need to know that it’s not their fault and you’ll work to make sure their lives change as little as possible. They need as much assurance as you can give them that even though you won’t be living together anymore, you’ll both be as involved as possible in everything they do.
It helps to have a plan before you have this conversation so you can answer questions like where you will live, where they will be going to school, and the timeline in which all of this will be finalized.
Give Them Time to Process Their Feelings
Remember that once you conquer what seems like the most overwhelming hurdle, the process is far from over. Your children may not want to talk right now, but over the next few months (or even years), they’ll continue to process their feelings in a variety of ways.
Make sure they know you’re always there for them when they need to talk about how they feel or what they’re thinking.
After all, not all children have matured enough to handle their feelings in reasonable ways. They may lash out, blame you, throw tantrums, cry, or become reclusive. They’ll find the only way they know to process their feelings, and it’s important to allow them to do so.
It will be difficult on you, it may seem like you’re the only parent dealing with it, and it may even come at a time in which you feel like you’re the one who had to deal with abuse or infidelity.
However, remember that your children didn’t see any of that (hopefully), and they’re getting a pretty raw deal as well. They need help coping with their anger, sadness, and everything else they’re feeling.
Spouses who can’t seem to work things out between each other can still be excellent parents. Remember that whatever you’re feeling toward your ex, that person is still a beloved parent to your children, and they need your support more than anything else right now.
Prepare to Deal with Trauma
Divorce is a traumatic event for children that can cause behavioral or academic decline. As you process your emotions, you may be blind to the grief your children are experiencing. As hard as it may be, keep your children out of adult arguments and present a united front for them.
Expressing contempt for your former spouse will just make it harder for your child to trust either of you and will add to their confusion. They can’t understand what went wrong in the first place, and need to feel safe with both parents.
Work Hard to Create Two Households
Your children should feel comfortable, safe, and at home with both parents, so working together to create two households, unified in the way you treat your children is incredibly important.
If you’re still living close to one another, it makes it easy to stay involved, share holidays, and keep some semblance of normalcy in their lives. They can stay at the same school, see their friends, and keep the same extracurriculars.
It’s no mystery that this will make the adjustment easier on them. However, that’s not always possible. Make sure both parents are on board with how your children can communicate with one parent while they’re staying with the other.
Put forth the effort to ensure your children have the tools they need to stay in touch while you’re far apart. Do everything you can to agree on the rules in each new household to make the transition smoother.
Remain a Family Unit
You may now be a single parent, but you can still remain a united parenting team in a lot of ways. Putting aside any animosity you have for each other and understanding what your children are going through will help you make better decisions moving forward.
Just like when you were married, you won’t always agree on everything, but if you can both agree that remaining a parent your children can rely on is the most important thing right now, you’ll make great strides to adjusting your life in a way that makes the transition easier on them.
Working together won’t be easy, but it’s definitely for the best, if you can make it work.
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