No matter how old or young your children are, divorce will be hard for them. Even adult children who have already moved out of the home may require support when their parents divorce. Those still developing physically, socially and emotionally will have the most significant challenges.
Thankfully, not every divorce is equally traumatizing for children. There are things you can do that can make the divorce easier for them. By trying to limit the effects of divorce on your kids, you can pursue your own happiness without worrying about the long-term developmental repercussions for your kids.
- Agree that they don’t need to see their parents disagree
If you and your ex can only agree to one thing during your divorce, protecting your children should be your biggest shared priority. One of the hardest things for children witnessing a divorce is the terrible things their parents say to and about each other.
If you and your ex can agree now that your children should never witness your arguments or hear your complaints, you can save the whole family a lot of stress. Agree to communicate about interpersonal issues only in writing or through your attorneys or therapist so that your emotions don’t affect you, allowing you to keep custody exchanges peaceful.
- Don’t force your children to pick a side
The judge presiding over your divorce has to consider many factors when deciding on a solution for your custody needs. In some divorce proceedings with older children, often those age 14 or older the courts will consider the preferences of the children.
Although it can be empowering for a child to have a say in their living circumstances, unless there is an issue with abuse or neglect, it is likely that you will strain their relationship with either parent by making them feel like they have to choose. If possible, you can agree to custody arrangements before you file, thereby taking the pressure off of your kids.
- Acknowledge that everyone could benefit from professional support
Unaddressed feelings of guilt, anger, abandonment or grief during a parental divorce could lead to worsening mental health issues. As the one going through divorce, you will undoubtedly have a lot of feelings to unpack and process. Your children will also have a lot of emotions.
Having family members attend individual therapy sessions can benefit everybody. You may also want to consider family sessions or even co-parenting sessions for you and your ex so that everyone in the family has the support and communication tools they need to adjust to life after divorce.
By keeping conflict low and trying to reduce the pressure on your children, you can make divorce and shared custody less traumatizing for the youngest members of your family.