Teri & Alexa have done an excellent job preparing a parent for how to tell a child they're divorcing. Now, let's discuss what you as a parent should do once the information has been shared and you've started the divorce process. Keep the adult information and decisions for adults only- It's a slippery slope to talk with your children about all the details of the divorce. Sharing too much with them can cause anxiety and confusion inside of a child. This includes not fighting with your ex around your child. Remember, your child has to carry whatever information they have seen or heard. More information than necessary can cause them to feel they are "growing up too fast" or that they are losing a piece of their childhood. Allow your kids to be kids and don't burden them with all of YOUR issues. They should not be your support system.
Keep your negative comments to yourself- You divorced your spouse for a reason, but it is not necessary for you to share those reasons with your child! That is their parent and they are literally 50% of your child. That is part of who they are, like it or not. Hating your ex could equal (in your child's mind) that you hate your child too.
Be aware of feelings of divided loyalty-Often times kids will feel torn between parents. They may struggle if they had a great time at dad's house for the weekend, but may not want to tell mom about it because they don't want her to be hurt or left out. Even if it is hard for you to hear these types of things, it is important for you to encourage your child to be open about the good and bad of what goes on at the other parent's home. Your reaction to this is vital. If you make a face, sigh, or criticize, it will only tell your child to keep secrets from you and could create an emotionally unsafe environment.
It is so important to make sure children transition as smooth as possible during a divorce. As Teri and Alexa discussed previously, all children are affected by divorce. Some things are uncontrollable and going to happen as a natural result of divorce. However, these tips are things that you do have power over and will help them feel safe & secure throughout this very difficult time.
Thank you for reading, please check back in as Natalie will go over more tips and Joleen will wrap us up with some great resources!
Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC
*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.