Helping Children After a Messy Divorce

A messy divorce doesn’t need to transition into a messy post-divorce family situation. Whether you’ve ripped up the custody papers or had a public screaming match, it’s never too late to change.

Children are affected by divorce. It’s the truth, but it doesn’t have to be as negative as it sounds. There are positives to take away and getting through a tough time teaches children a lesson. It will teach them about obstacles and life in general while shaping their character like tackling any issue can. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t need support. Structure and stability during life challenges such as divorce are imperative and a topic I covered in my last post. There, I highlighted the importance of communication and stability between co-parents and working on an amicable shared custody parenting setup. This time I’m going to focus more on what you can do to help your children through this and I’ll be making the assumption that due to a messy divorce, an ideal parenting partnership maybe be impossible or at the least untenable.

Reassure

A “bad” divorce often means your children have been exposed to conflict and at a minimum bad energy between you and your ex-partner. It may be obvious to them you don’t love each other anymore but you have to reassure them that you both love still love them, the same as before, unconditionally. That aspect of your family will never change.

Additionally you need to reassure them that it’s okay to love their other parent; they need that regardless of your feelings. Depending just how badly your relationship with your ex husband or wife has deteriorated, your children may even feel guilty for loving or spending time with the other parent. Don’t encourage this; it will only leave them feeling confused. You need to absolve them of guilt at every possible opportunity and reiterate that no one is going anywhere; they still have two parents and always will do. Remember to not only refrain from alienating your children from their
other parent but help them with feelings of alienation from society. A divorce can feel like a broken, damaged family. Your children must recognize it’s not a reflection of them.

Reassure them that it’s okay to have feelings. Normalize their reactions and try to understand them, legitimize their feelings by agreeing and empathizing. Acknowledge their right to be angry or upset, never deny them that. Encourage conversation, answer their questions with honesty whenever possible and hopefully they will do the same. This can give you a window into just how much they are affected and the level of support they need. Sometimes it’s healthy to shield your children from too much information until they’re of appropriate age. Unfortunately after a conflict-filled divorce, that age may have prematurely arrived and they may be aware of more than you expect. It’s not always easy to be honest, especially if you don’t have all the answers, but just be prepared for some difficult questions.

Minimize Blame

A step toward minimizing any guilt or confusion your children may be feeling is to also minimize blame. Save that for therapy sessions! When I said a messy divorce doesn’t necessarily need to develop into a messy parenting or family situation part of the reason is that you leave that baggage there, in the past. There’s no need to let that person, or what happened, continue affecting you or your children’s lives; if that happens, everyone has lost.

While being careful not to badmouth your ex, it’s important you make clear to your children that you’ll never be getting back to together. This is a new stage of your life and there’s no space for false hope, clarity is everything. With a new life come new opportunities. Establish a new routine, go on a vacation, buy a new pet or just create something fun and different – a different meal, game or trip for example. Now that you’ve separated it gives you freedom to create the family dynamic you want or have always wanted. You will have special time and activities with your children that are just yours
and yours alone, relish and enjoy this!

Don’t forget about yourself

You’re an example – the biggest role model your children have. It can be easy to forget about how you may feel when you’re so concerned about your children but if you let yourself completely fall apart, that’s not going to help you or them. They need the love and support of someone who has it together as best they can. They need healthy parents.

You’re bound to feel pressure from all angles, and that’s why you shouldn’t shy away from help. That includes everything from a shoulder to cry on, support groups and online forums to consulting a parenting expert, therapist or attending counseling sessions. When someone’s life is changed irrevocably, it’s a big transition and you need to accept the support for your temporary mental well being. Once you speak to people going through similar situations you’ll realize you’re not alone; you’ll get perspective and have support from people who can help you get on with your new life
with your children.

This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith, Senior Editor of Custody X Change, a custody software specialist company.

 STRUGGLING AFTER A MESSY DIVORCE? Let’s work to get you back on track and find peace in life again. Call us, send us a message on Facebook, or schedule your appointment right here. It’s time to get your life back.

Providing Stability for Your Children Post-Divorce

Keeping things stable: it’s no easy task, but an imperative one. Stability runs parallel with consistency, and if you take the time to sit down and discuss things with your ex-partner, you can set some ground rules in order to maintain consistency.  Your children need you now more than ever. Spending prolonged time with the other parent so soon after a divorce may be less than ideal for you, but it is definitely necessary for your children. Being on the same page as your ex and having a discussion will help avoid potential disagreements further down the line or at least slightly negate their effects on stability.

Points to Keep in Mind

Divorce affects children of all ages; this is a time when they need maximum support and understanding. Coping with divorce can better prepare them for further obstacles in later life; they will develop into more capable and tolerant adults.

Organizing regular time with both parents and sticking to similar rules for each household will help create a stable environment for your children. Structure in terms of a set custody schedule is vital in this preliminary stage. While you and your children are adjusting to the new state of affairs, it’s better to minimize schedule changes.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, fighting in front of your children creates a much more tense and pressure filled environment. It also makes the objective of stability that much further to reach. If you’re anticipating heated disagreements and conflicts in parenting style it may be best to consider mediation. This way you can get an objective point of view. Either way, you have to get in the mind-set of compromise. Accept your differences, at least in the short term, all in the name of providing that stability.

As is the case with any adult going through divorce, children also have mixed emotions and may feel hurt or angry about the situation. This needs to be tackled properly in order to prevent behavioral problems further down the line. Speak with them and don’t always take their word that they’re okay. Look out for disruptions in their sleep or changed attitudes in school to indicate that they’re being affected.

You should consider their stability at school. If possible it is better to avoid changing schools for your children so that they have familiar routines and structures in their school life parallel to their home life. The same friends and teachers can help preserve consistency, the same goes for relatives; try not to cut any of their relatives out of their lives.

Dealing with bad behavior

It goes without saying that this aspect of parenting will become more challenging post-divorce. You’ve got a lot on your mind and it can feel like you’re trying to juggle too many balls at once. All the previous points to keep in mind in addition to providing stability will hopefully go some way to keeping behavior in check. Putting your children in a difficult or uncomfortable position (for example caught between both parents) will result in them being more likely to act out.

If the other parent has sole custody and you spend less time than you’d like with your child it can be tempting to over indulge and spoil them to compensate for the limited time. This is not a good idea for several reasons. Of course you should make the most of the time you get together but monetary compensations are no replacement for quality time and it can influence your child’s behavior negatively. They can begin to expect too much without having to abide by rules, furthermore acting towards them out of pity or guilt could further compound their feelings of self-doubt in regards to them handling this new situation.

Be careful how you treat your child post-divorce, frequently emotion is expressed through actions and gearing all your efforts towards maintaining stability and a positive family relationship will go a long way to combating bad behavior. If behavioral problems do not cease to persist don’t be afraid to seek professional help in the form of a child therapist or behavioral expert. Sometimes it will be easier for your child to speak to someone removed from/not personally involved in the situation. Above all, be understanding. Sometimes adults aren’t constantly mature enough to handle divorce well so you can’t expect children to be!

This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith of Custody X Change, a custody calendar software program.

 STRUGGLING THROUGH SEPARATION OR DIVORCE? Let’s work together and help find solutions. Call us, message us on Facebook, or schedule your appointment here. Appointments are available in Owensboro and Online. It’s time to get your life back.

Setting Examples and Exercising Control: A Guide for Separated Parents

Separation. Divorce. You only need to say these words and already people begin to conjure up images of volatile, hostile, aggressive environments. It’s not exactly the perfect environment for a child to be situated in. These times are hard for everyone, even if everything ended amicably. Children need a long time to process and come to terms with what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen in the future. The best way you can help is to be supportive, listen and shield them from unnecessary heated moments.

Exercise caution

Unfortunately, what you expose your children to during this time could seriously affect them, as it as a period in life of vulnerability and emotional uncertainty for everyone involved. People react to new circumstances in different ways, and you obviously want the transition to be as smooth as possible for the people you love!

Of course being careful of what you say and do in front of your children shouldn’t amount to lying to them. Honesty is still the best policy, and vital for keeping trust. However it’d still be wise to withhold certain details until they’re completely ready to hear it. Your explanations always need to be age appropriate. Another imperative point is not to do something that parents are often guilty of. Although it is something they usually subconsciously do, or at least do without intention.  Remember not to tell your children how they feel, or tell them they don’t feel something when they do. Don’t deny them their right to emotions and feelings.

Be aware of your behavior

This awareness will help you avoid potentially damaging situations. Check your conduct toward your ex-spouse when your child is present; the last thing you want is them seeing you shouting, disparaging each other or getting physical; even if it’s just a prod or aggressively pointed finger. Body language and non-verbal clues give a lot away and are easily picked up by the kids. If you want your child to be mature, respectful and kind you have to exhibit those same favorable traits in your demeanour and actions. As a parent, you’re are always the primary role model in the lives of your children, whether you’re divorced or not. You want to instil your values in your children, so act how you wish them to act.

Equally as significant is maintaining relationships with both parents. For the development of your children, it’s better that you never prevent them from contacting the other parent and don’t get too involved in or try to prevent their relationship from naturally growing. If you have an agreement with your ex, stick to it. Don’t deny visitations or change plans at the last second out of spite or emotion. Remember what’s best for the children. To avoid exposing them to disagreements between you as parents, it’s advisable to use a parenting plan template and draw up a specific plan – one that you can agree on and stick to, complete with necessary details in order to decrease the likelihood of future disputes. Once you have something in writing, it’s harder to argue about or deny.

Finally, if children see you managing your conflict well through negotiation, empathy, compromise and (age appropriate) discussion it can educate them and help them learn skills for the future. It can actually benefit them by teaching life lessons on ethics, responsibility and constructive conflict resolution.

This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith of Custody X Change, a custody calendar software program.

 STRUGGLING THROUGH A SEPARATION? Give us a call, message us on Facebook or schedule your appointment right here. Appointments are available in Owensboro and Online. There’s hope and healing in your journey. It’s time to get your life back.