Research has shown that although divorce can be hard on children, it’s often the fighting of the parents that leaves the deepest scars. How well children adjust rests on the parents’ ability to protect their kids from conflict. Learn how to help your kids stay kids by maintaining a stable home life.
For children of divorce, consistency is key. Dr. Joseph Nowinski writes in Psychology Today that inconsistent parenting is well documented to be the worst parenting style, and the children who are subjected to it pay the price.
That means keeping bedtimes, meals, rewards and discipline the same as before. Children experiencing separation and divorce need stability during the stressful and unsure times of the early stages. They feel the most secure when routines don’t change.
Children don’t need to know the reasons behind the divorce. You can, however, tell your kids what this divorce will mean for their lives going forward and provide age-appropriate information. Establishing a healthy pattern of communication will serve you well throughout your divorce, but kids don’t need to play the blame game.
Even if the divorce is the result of betrayal, such as an affair, your children still don’t deserve the truth. “It will only confuse the children, may destroy their relationship with the other parent and could have a monumental impact emotionally,” says divorce consultant and educator Deborah Moskovitch. Although you may be feeling victimized, remember your job is to protect your kids. Don’t turn them into adults.
Keeping the unfortunate details between you and your ex allows you to protect your kids from adult drama. Don’t make your children a go-between or spy. As tempting as it might be to make an offhand (or direct) remark about the other parent, this will only hurt your kids rather than your ex.
Finally, never let your children see you fight. Insulating your kids from drama is more important than winning the argument.
Although you’d never imagine pointing the finger at your kids, this is the most important point you can make. Consistently verbalize that your kids are not to blame. Children often internalize feelings of guilt surrounding divorce, believing they are the cause. Never assume they know that your problems are between the parents – kids have a knack for blaming themselves. (“If only I had gotten better grades,” or “If I hadn’t always been in trouble they wouldn’t fight.”) Remind them that both parents love them and they are not responsible for the split.
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress points out that letting your children take care of you, no matter how hard the circumstances, is detrimental. “Many children try to act like adults and want to help and comfort their parents, who they can see are in more distress than usual. That is not their job,” David John Berndt, Ph.D. writes. Find a support group or a close friend to lean on – not your son or daughter.
If you’re facing a divorce, taking care of yourself goes hand in hand with supporting your children. Learn more about Jay Babbitt and get in touch with the Ohio family lawyers at Babbitt & Dahlberg today to schedule a consultation and learn more.