I recently read an article posted by Stephan Futeral, a South Carolina attorney, with some great information about children and divorce and what parents can do to assist their children during this time.
Per the article, “Divorcing parents can decrease the impact on their children by following guidelines with their children, by avoiding conflict with the other parent, and by maintaining their own well-being.” Sounds easy, but he listed several ways to deal with your children. Some of those are listed below:
- Don’t treat your children as adults – Some parents believe that their children must “grow up” quicker because of the divorce. Unfortunately, just because some parents treat their children like adults does not mean that their children are emotionally or intellectually equipped to deal with adult issues. Let children be children.
- Don’t rely on your children for your emotional support – Although it may seem natural to turn to your children for comfort during an emotional time, you are likely to cause greater instability and more pressure on the children. Some children begin to feel responsible for their parent’s emotional well-being, whereas some children suffer other emotional side-effects such as increased anger or depression. If you need emotional support, turn to another family member or a friend instead.
- Don’t talk about the “divorce” or other grown up stuff – This issue ties in with not treating your children as adults.
- Don’t block visitation or prevent your children from speaking to the other parent – There are many psychological studies illustrating the benefits children reap from spending time with both parents. No matter how you feel about your former spouse, don’t deprive your children of having a healthy relationship with the other parent.
- Don’t ask your children to spy on the other parent or report back to you – Children in divorce already may be experiencing conflict in their loyalties and feelings toward both parents. Asking children to spy or to report places the children in an extremely awkward and emotionally stressful position of pleasing one parent while betraying another.
- Don’t ask your children to keep secrets from the other parent – Dividing a child’s loyalty between parents’ places them under extreme stress. Further, the child is learning to become manipulative and may later play one parent against the other using lies and secrets.
- Allow your children to take items such as their toys back and forth between homes as long as they can carry them – Oftentimes parents are reluctant to allow toys, books, and other items to go to the other parent’s home because these items may not be returned. Think of these items as the children’s things, not yours, and let your children have a sense of continuity by taking familiar and comforting items such as toys back and forth between homes.
These are just a few of Mr. Futeral’s suggestions and I believe they are very informative. As a child of divorced parents, I can tell you that I wished my parents would have taken these suggestions to heart. It would have made things much easier on us children. When I went through my own divorce years ago, I did my best to make sure my children did not go through what my sister, brother and I went through as children.
There were also suggestions on how to deal with the other parent, which were thought provoking. Some of them are listed below:
- Don’t ignore the other parent or sit on the opposite side of the room during special events involving your children such as athletic matches, school plays, etc. – As emotionally difficult as it may be for you to be that close to the other parent, it is more difficult for your children to see parents distance themselves at these times. Overall, it is a small sacrifice to make for your children’s emotional wellbeing.
- Ignore (rather than arguing back) when the other parent tries to tell you how to parent – This argument is one that no one can win.
- Accept that there is more than one “right way” to parent and support different parenting styles- Even if you had not divorced, chances are that you and your former spouse may have or would have parented in your unique styles. If you can accept and deal with the difference in parenting styles during marriage, then you can accept these differences in divorce too.
And finally, taking care of yourself is important. Talk to friends, family, or whoever you need to, and stay busy. You will adjust, your children will adjust and life will go on and you will enjoy the new path your life is going. I know I did, and I love my life. I have two great grown sons, lots of grandchildren and they are all a part of my life. To read the full article by Mr. Futeral, you may find it here.
- The “D” Word – Divorce (childrensbooksheal.com)
- “D” is now for “Divorce” on Sesame Street (kdvr.com)