After a divorce, children are prone to confusion, anxiety, sadness, and even anger. At such an early stage of life, it’s hard to process big changes. Something as significant as a divorce is almost certainly going to hit them hard.
They look to you for comfort and guidance, and it’s paramount that you have it ready for them.
No one’s suggesting it’s easy. But it is possible, and well worth the effort.
Here are the things your kids will need most from you after your divorce:
Even a mediocre attitude from a parent can become a breeding ground for a child’s doubts. They’ll need support from you–cheerful, optimistic, joyful support.
You probably won’t feel like it very much. In fact, you may not at all. Still, your kids need your smile, even when it’s hard to put on. They need you to give them hope for the future, even when you’d rather brood.
Save your sadness, your stress, and especially your anger for the appropriate audience. Yes, you’ll need to get it out, but your kids shouldn’t have to bear the burden.
For your kids, you must be a beacon of comfort. It isn’t easy, but it is right.
- A Stable Life
This is another one that can be tough for you. Keeping your kids out of your divorce means not interrupting their lives. The best way to do that is to provide them with a stable life.
In the wake of a divorce, you may be tempted to reset your whole life and start over. Your kids need the opposite.
A divorce is a major shakeup, especially in a young person’s life. It’s important to minimize any further changes. You want to keep their lives humming along on as smooth a track as possible.
Ideally, that means keeping them in the same home, social circles, and school.
It also means maintaining as much of their old habits as you can. From play dates and sleepovers to sports and more, they need as familiar a schedule as possible.
Help them form new friendships, too. Do whatever you can to encourage healthy social activity.
- A Unified Parenting Plan
We understand you probably don’t want to spend too much time with your ex. No one does.
But whether you like it or not, you and your former spouse must give your children balanced parenting. That means coordination–and cooperation.
Your kids will be dealing with enough confusion as it is without having to navigate conflicting parental styles. Work with your ex. Find common ground on how to raise your children.
You may not agree on everything. That’s okay. Take the time and effort to reach a compromise.
Remember: you aren’t doing this for yourself or your ex. You’re doing it for your children, and they’re worth the hassle.
- Constant Reassurance
It’s tough to overdo this one.
You know the divorce isn’t your kids fault. You know that it doesn’t affect your love for them. You know it all–but don’t assume your kids do, too. At least, not on their own.
Kids can be masters at hiding their feelings. Don’t wait for them to broach hard subjects. Ask them. Talk to them. Make sure they know they can always come to you and find an open line of communication.
Make sure they believe it.
You want them to bring their troubles to you the moment any pop into their little heads. No hesitation, no worry that they might be bothering you. Straight to mom or dad for answers, comfort, and boundless love.
You might think that’s the situation already. It may be, but it’s worth reinforcing again and again.
It’s not something you can remind them of too much.
- A Childhood
Childhood is about more than just being young. It’s playing, laughing, and running around with friends. It’s pizza parties and hide-and-go-seek.
It’s freedom, fun, and all the giggly joy they can stomach.
It’s lots of hard things, too, and it must happen in the right context. Plenty of rules and structure are important. But don’t let a divorce leave only the structure, only the rules, and only the tough love.
More than ever, your kids need to romp and play and have a blast. Divorce changes a lot, but it doesn’t make them something other than children, and every child needs a childhood.
A lot of that happens on its own, but they still need some help from you. That alone will go a long way to soothing any aching little hearts.
Deborah Bankhead is an Attorney at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Deborah believes compassion and patience are required of family law attorneys and she is a relentless advocate for families in crisis. In her spare time, Deborah volunteers to help teens interested in the legal field pursue their dreams and likes to hang out with her cat.