Divorce happens, but what it should never mean is that a child feels split between parents. Far too often the divorcing couple puts their needs and feelings above their child, but this will always lead to disaster in one form or another. Perhaps your children start to hate one of their parents, perhaps they act out, perhaps they internalise it all and live with an ongoing fear of abandonment. There are so many ways that divorce can traumatize kids, but only if you let it. While divorce is an adjustment for everyone, it doesn’t have to be painful. Put your kids first and follow these tips, and you can divorce amicably.
1. Start with Lawyers
The best place to start is with a good divorce attorney or a family solicitor. How to pick a good family solicitor? Look at what their values are. You want a client-led approach with an emphasis on problem solving and mediation. Solicitors make the entire process calmer and more structured. Splitting assets and figuring out how you are going to live with your children afterwards is a difficult process and having outside guidance can help keep the process as respectful as possible.
2. Use the Separation Wisely
Most couples will either need to or want to separate before their divorce. Use this period to set up a new routine for the kids, starting with finding a new place that is near the kids’ school, if not near your ex. Being near the school means that you can more easily dive up pickups and drop-offs, and also allow your kids to feel like both of their parents are within their reach.
For the best results, use routine. Routine can help kids understand what to expect and even start to like it, particularly if you and your ex were awful to each other before your divorce.
3. Go to Couple’s and Family Counselling
There is a misconception that couple’s and family counselling is for when you are trying to make it work, but you can actually get a lot out of it after divorce as well. Family counselling will help your kids learn to cope with the changes, and the couple’s counselling can help you and your ex co-parent while respecting their boundaries.
There are exceptions, of course. If the divorce was because the relationship was abusive then you will need a different approach, but individual and family therapy can both be very useful for you and your kids.
4. Be Together, Apart
Kids need both of their parents, which is why it is important to go together for big events like school events or sports events but do know you can confuse your kids. Set boundaries between each other in advance and don’t try to keep everything the same. Your kids need to know you respect your ex, but that you aren’t going to get back together. Without this distance, it is going to be very hard for your kids when either of you starts dating again.
There will always be trial and error, but so long as you learn to co-parent calmly with your ex and put your kids first (particularly by actually listening to them and their needs), you can actually manage a better family dynamic than before.