Divorce is hard on you. The only ones it may be more difficult for is your children. You are all going through a lot of changes, and how you handle it could help or hurt your children.
If you are like most parents here in Florida and elsewhere, you want to make this time as easy on your children as possible. You and your future former spouse agree to do what it takes to make that happen. This includes creating a parenting plan that addresses their psychological needs.
What may distress them the most
Your children must face the fact that things will change. Their parents will no longer be living together, and they have to make adjustments because of it. Depending on the age of your children, they could experience different emotional reactions, such as the following:
- Teenagers often express their distress with anger and resentment of one or both of you because things have to change.
- Grade school children tend to think they are at fault for your divorce because they did something wrong or misbehaved in some way.
- Elementary school children and younger may not understand why they are going back and forth between your home and the other parent's home. They may also worry about losing the love of one or both of you since you stopped loving each other.
Children of all ages can act out or even suffer from regressive behaviors. The more changes that your children must go through, such as moving, not seeing one parent as often and changing schools, tend to add to their stress, frustration and anger. While there is little you can do to stop the changes that will happen, you can work together to provide them with the support they desperately need during this time.
What you can do to make it easier
In addition to simply being there for them and providing a sympathetic ear, you and the other parent can create a parenting plan that gives them the best love, support and time. Making sure that each parent has as much time with the children as possible can let them know that, even though you are no longer married, you remain a family.
The less confrontation between the two of you, the better off your children will be. As they watch you work together to give them a smooth transition into their new lives, they may feel more confident and secure. The first year or so will be the most difficult for everyone. This adjustment period is your chance to let them know they will be okay.
What to include in your parenting plan
In addition to setting up a parenting time schedule, you may want to make sure you address events such as birthdays, holidays and school events. Seeing the two of you together at these events, if possible, will go a long way toward reassuring them. Developing a communication method that doesn't involve the children, along with a way to resolve any conflicts that arise, goes a long way toward letting them know they don't have to choose sides.
Moreover, your children need to know that you still work as a team when it comes to parenting. You may feel tempted to relax discipline and forgo structure, but that would most likely only cause more problems. The more united you and the other parent are, the better off your children will be.