Resolution without Litigation
Diana Wilde, Divorce Mediator
Meeting the Needs of Your Children in Divorce
Children are directly affected by the life-changing event of divorce. When parents end their marriage, a child's foundation is irretrievably broken - no matter the child's age. The key to determining how well a child will survive the breakup of a family relies on how calmly and maturely each parent handles the divorce and the inevitable changes. Children learn by example.
Here are a few basic Do's and Don'ts when communicating with your children during your divorce.
When you break the news to your children about the upcoming divorce keep it simple, age specific, and answer their questions accordingly. Children need to be listened to, their questions answered, and to be continually encouraged in their every day lives.
Remain upbeat about the future when talking with your children. Children need to know, by example, that their world has not totally fallen apart. They need to be the focus of each parent's attention whenever possible, despite the challenges in the parents' adult life.
Tell your children, and remind them often, that the divorce is NOT their fault. No matter what their age, children will remember something they did or said that they figure caused the breakup of their parents' marriage.
Tell your children, and remind them often, that you still love them and that you will always be there for them. Let them know that sometimes love between parents ends, but love between a parent and child is a different kind of love - a love that goes on forever.
Maintain co-parental authority during and after divorce. When children ask permission for things that need input from both parents respond by saying, "Your mother/father and I will discuss this and get back to you." This co-parenting approach maintains your leadership roles as the parents in charge and also provides security for the child despite having separate households.
Don't discuss any aspects of the divorce within proximity of the children - even by phone or text. If you use email to communicate with each other, make sure that the children have no access to your email account or to documents saved on your computer. All conversation between adults during child transfers should be strictly about the children and their needs - nothing else.
Don't confide in your children regarding your soon-to-be ex-spouse or details of the divorce before, during, or afterwards. A divorce should not involve the children directly. This is adult business between two adults. Keep it that way for the sake of your children's emotional well-being.
Don't use your children as a communicator or messenger between the two of you. Instead, find other ways to communicate and pass information directly or indirectly.
Don't bad mouth the other parent - ever. This only drives the child away from you emotionally. Each child will make their own assessment of each parent as he/she grows up - without any help or direction from you.
Don't put your child in the middle. If a parent responds to a child's question with, "What does your mother/father say?" or "Go ask your mother/father," that parent has given up their authority plus put the child in the middle as both a messenger and as an inappropriate decision-maker. Children often fall between the cracks when divorced parents don't truly co-parent with a united front to the detriment of the child's sense of security and wholeness.