When you say, “I do.” the last thought that crosses your mind is getting a divorce. Whether your marriage recently began and has always been rocky so you are calling it quits early on or you find yourselves together for twenty years and now going through the process, if you have kids your divorce will look much different than if it were just the two of you. We often see the effects a divorce has on a couple. When children are involved, it is imperative to drive all of your decisions based upon the effects of divorce on children.
Continuity Is Key
Consistency will help your entire family stay afloat during your divorce. The effects of divorce on children can be lessened with continuity from both parents. Many divorces are awful and messy. We do not expect all divorcees to work well together. What we do expect is that both parents do what is best for the child(ren) involved. Phone contact or visitation should be the same day and time. This allows for all children to know what to expect. Contact with the non-custodial parent becomes routine. This helps to lessen the emotional effects of divorce on children.
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Keep Your Feelings To Yourself
Remember that the emotions you are feeling towards your husband are the way you feel for him. Your child(ren) may still adore their father. It is a hard role to play as a hurting wife but your children deserve to be exempt from the way you feel. They should not hear anything either parent says about the other. Although you have no control over what their father says in their presence, you can do your part to leave them out of any conversations you may have pertaining to them.
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Be Honest With Your Kid(s)
Make sure they know Mommy loves them so very much & Daddy loves them so very much! Mommy and Daddy are not going to be husband and wife anymore but this does not change their love for you! Explain who will live where and when your child will be staying with each parent.
TIP: If you are the primary caregiver, write on the calendar when the child will go to their dad’s house. If the child really misses their mama, then dad should also write when they will return home on his calendar. This way your child has a visual representation of what to expect in both homes.
It is helpful to tell younger children the day of the sleepover to prevent anxiety or confusion of days.
Make Each Transition Special And Child Initiated
Allow your child to choose a special backpack that they can bring back and forth to each home. Encourage them to pack their favorite toys or special outfits each time they have a sleepover with the non-custodial parent. This will allow your child to have a sense of control over the situation which ultimately, none of you can control. Letting your child choose what they want to bring and wear while they are away from you will help to lessen the negative effects of divorce on children that they could face. Instead, they will feel confident, comfortable, and in control. The way their room is designed at the non-custodial parent’s home should be decorated how they wish. Allowing a child to choose their bedding, decor, and books will help them to feel more secure.
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Have Everything The Child Needs At Both Homes To Omit Unnecessary Stress
Having everything that your child could possibly need at both homes will omit unnecessary stress, and ultimately help them through the effects of divorce on children. Daily medications should be at the top of this list. (Doctors will gladly write duplicate scripts for prescriptions to be sure the child has what they need.)
The obvious here is clothing. Your child should have ample clothing at both homes for all weather. Although we have already mentioned daily medications, each home should also have all of the necessary over the counter medicines, your child’s favorite bandages, and anything else they may need for comfort when away from their custodial parent. Your child’s favorite foods, drinks, and snacks can even help to lessen how they feel the effects of the divorce. Familiarity will be everyone’s best friend in fostering a smooth transition.
Be Open To Counseling
Everyone going through a divorce, from your young children to you and your ex, can benefit, greatly, from seeing a counselor regularly. At the age of two- therapy can be done in the form of play therapy. Many schools offer counseling as part of a child’s IEP, if applicable. If domestic violence is a factor in your divorce, your local domestic violence organization can provide your child one on one domestic violence and/or trauma counseling. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your family, there are strong effects of divorce on children. Counseling and regular therapy can help everyone. A therapist can help you all adjust to your new normal. This is especially necessary for children.
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Communication Is Crucial
Allow your child to ask whatever questions they may have. Be excited to hear about their time with their father (fake it if you must). Allow your child to see you and your ex working together as parents. This may be the absolute hardest part but it is imperative that your child knows you two are still Mommy & Daddy, no matter what! If your child has a concern regarding dad’s house (ex. is afraid of his cat) make sure to tell them you will tell their father and do so. Follow up! Your child deserves to know that their voice is still heard by both of their parents. Have an honest conversation, just the three of you. If your child has a concern about missing Mommy, make sure that you three discuss the concern and come up with solutions (ex: read Llama Llama Misses Mama or have both parents in agreement in front of the child that they can call Mommy at any time they wish!)
Know That Children Express Their Emotions Through Tantrums
Remain calm. Explain their feelings to them and say things such as, “I notice you are mad. Your hands are clenched.” “I notice you are sad. You are crying.” Reassure them that it is ok to feel all types of emotions. Guide them through recognizing and labeling their emotions as well as discovering why they are feeling certain emotions. This is where a therapist can be beneficial. Family therapy is also an option to “teach” everyone coping skills.
Have A Safe Spot Or Object
Help your child choose a safe spot in each house or a safe object they can carry with them to help them feel secure. Teach them mindfulness and deep breathing routines. Anyone can take a deep breath anywhere. This is a great tactic to help ground children in their big emotions and feelings. If overwhelmed, a deep breath may take some time to attain. Start small, encourage them to take a little breath and then gradually make it deeper.
TIP: A reading nook designed by your child can be a very calming place. Books take us places. Allow them to get lost in a book whenever they need to.
Divorce is emotional and downright confusing! The effects of divorce on children can be even more confusing and emotional than for you and your husband. Write everything down for the other parent, as needed. To establish continuity- provide your ex with a list of your child’s exact routine/regime. This will help your child to feel safe and secure. Be open with your child’s teachers and let them know of any setbacks, changes, issues as they arise. They can help provide resources to help your family navigate the effects of divorce on children. Be patient. You are most likely overwhelmed with emotions pertaining to your own divorce. Imagine being a child and your entire world looks different. It can be scary for children. Do your best to remain patient and consistent. Lean on your support system as needed!
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