Divorce can feel complicated enough for an adult who understands what is happening. Children whose parents are getting divorced may not have that level of understanding. For many children, that can make their parents’ divorce confusing, upsetting, and even scary.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your child prepare for and navigate the changes that your divorce will bring. With the right approach, you can help your child adjust to their new life with minimal stress. Below, we have outlined some tools children need to cope with significant life changes such as a divorce, and what you can do to help them during the process.
What Do Children Need During a Divorce?
Growing up is hard, even for children with married parents. Divorce can leave a child feeling vulnerable and needing more support than usual. This support includes reassuring them of the following:
- Safety: Above everything else, children need to feel safe. Angry arguments or sudden changes to their surroundings can make kids of all ages feel threatened and scared. Do your best to assure your kids that no matter what, they will always be protected.
- Stability: A stable, predictable environment is crucial to helping kids feel safe. Try to keep your child’s routines and daily life as similar as possible. If things need to change, develop new habits quickly to help them adjust.
- Love and Acceptance: It is natural for children to worry that a divorce somehow means they are at risk of losing their parents’ love. Give your child extra attention during this difficult time and express how much the other parent loves them. This helps assure them that they are still a priority. It also allows them to ask questions and reaffirm that they are in no way responsible for the end of your marriage.
How to Prioritize Your Child During Your Divorce
The best way to help your child cope with the challenges of divorcing parents is to prioritize them. Regardless of how old they are or how independent they may seem, they still rely on you for guidance, support, and care. When you put them first, you make it much easier for them to adjust to their new family situation. Below are several ways you can prioritize your kids during divorce proceedings and make the process less stressful for them.
Present a United Front
Your kids are used to you and your spouse working together to parent them. Even though it may be difficult, it is worthwhile and often critical to a child’s well-being to continue collaborating during and after your divorce. This means working with your co-parent to implement similar household rules and enforcing each other’s decisions to the extent possible.
Keep Your Child Out of Disputes
Most divorcing couples have disagreements. Regardless of your personal feelings about a dispute, never involve your child in the argument. Your child should not be a pawn or intermediator in any marital dispute.
Putting your child in the middle of a dispute can cause them to feel guilty or responsible for your split. A common complaint of grown children of divorce is that they felt like they had to mediate arguments or make their parents feel better. That is too heavy a burden to put on children.
Furthermore, never force your child to “pick a side” or try to use them against your spouse in custody disputes. That only makes the process harder on your children. They may feel they must abandon one parent or risk losing both of you.
Instead, let your kids be kids and prioritize their best interests. If you have a disagreement with your spouse, either resolve it civilly where children cannot hear, then tell your children once you have come to an agreement. If you and your spouse disagree about how to share custody, work with an experienced family law attorney to resolve the dispute. Handling these matters professionally gives your children the space to process their emotions without getting further entangled in adult concerns.
Consider Negotiation or Mediation
Beyond just keeping your child out of any disputes, you can go a step further and pursue low-conflict divorce resolution methods such as mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation, or collaborative divorce. These alternatives to litigation are intended to help spouses resolve disputes within divorce with less conflict.
This may better allow you and/or your spouse to determine how your final settlement will be structured instead of requesting a judge make rulings on your behalf. If you and your spouse remain amicable, these approaches can resolve disputes with less conflict and reduce the time it takes to reach a settlement.
Not only can negotiation, mediation, and collaboration allow parties to draft mutually satisfying agreements outside the courtroom, but also they may reduce the amount of conflict your children experience. By resolving your divorce without litigation, you may reclaim time and energy to focus on your children’s needs instead of legal battles. That is better for both you and your children.
Put Your Children First With Expert Legal Counsel
If you are concerned about your children’s well-being during your divorce, one of the best things you can do is to work with an expert family law attorney. At Madigan & Lewis, LLP, our attorneys have years of experience helping families handle divorces and other disputes while prioritizing their children’s needs. We will work closely with you to determine the most effective method to resolve conflicts in your divorce and pursue the best possible outcome for you and your family. Schedule your consultation today to learn more about how we can assist you in your divorce.
The material contained herein has been prepared by Madigan & Lewis, LLP for informational purposes only, not legal advice. This information is not intended to create – and receipt of it does not constitute – a lawyer-client relationship between Madigan & Lewis, LLP and the reader. This website is intended to provide information about our law firm and its services and is not guaranteed to be up-to-date or complete. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.