Being a child of divorce, I know a lot about the ways a child feels when their world is falling apart. There are so many different emotions colliding with each other all at once. At a time when just getting through the day can seem like a chore, getting the news that your parents will no longer be together is probably one of the toughest things a child can hear. These are 5 things to hopefully make this life altering decision a little easier on the kids.
1. Do not put the kids in the middle.
This was done to me and my brother all of the time. My mother would say, “Can you tell your father…?” And my father would say, “Tell your mother…” And I was so young, I didn’t have the mindset to tell each of them to not talk through me, but to each other. Kids just don’t want to hear it and they should not have to hear it. You are the adult- act like it. Do not put added stress onto their shoulders. Try to be mature and leave the kids out of that terrible position.
2. Do not argue in front of them.
Just remember, you are the adult. You are supposed to be a role model. Arguing in front of your children is probably one of the most destructive things you can do. A lot of the time, I thought it was my fault that my parents argued all the time. Kids don’t have the knowledge yet that when separating/divorcing parents argue that most of the time it doesn’t have anything to do with them. The arguments are usually to try to establish power. Kids don’t need to be involved in that, so don’t do it in front of them.
3. Do not make the other parent the villian.
My mother would tell me and my brother how awful my father was and how he was such a bad person. I don’t know what she was thinking. Even if she did think this (and oh boy, she did) this was my father she was talking about. I only have one. The hatred she had of him made me feel bad about myself. Her approach to the whole thing backfired. An unexpected consequence. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years after my parent’s divorce is that you should love your kids more than you hate your ex. Easier said than done.
4. Do not put the other parent down.
Both of my parents did this. My mother did it more than my father, but I did live with my mother so it makes sense I heard it from her more. It was non-stop, all the time bashing. It was almost like a hobby to her. Yes, I thought, I know you don’t like him. Yes, I know you hate him. Yes, I know you wished you had never married him. My mother didn’t know how to keep her thoughts to herself. It hurts a kid to have to listen to all of the hateful feelings you have towards the other parent. When you blame the other parent, to a kid it feels like you are blaming them. And that’s exactly what they shouldn’t have to feel. Instead of bringing down their self-esteem, which is basically what you’re doing, you should provide comfort and support. It is in that time that they need it the most.
5. Reinforce the fact that no matter what, the two of you will always love them.
I can still remember to this day the moment when my father sat all of us down and told us he was moving out. It’s one of those moments that stay with you all of your life. He started to cry which made me and my brother cry. I think we knew before he told us. Kids are very smart. They know when things are very wrong between their parents. My father talked through tears and we listened. I think you should remind your kids that even though you are moving out, you will always be there for them. I know my father said that to us that day. Kids need reassurance that everything will be okay. They need something to hold onto when their world is falling apart. Kids need to feel loved, especially when their parents are going through a divorce. They don’t need to feel responsible for what is going on around them. Remember that and maybe your kids will be okay.
Children react differently to their parent’s divorce. Some have a harder time with it than other kids. I know now my parents should have done things completely different. Do I blame them? I try not to. Parents may be parents, but everyone has a chance to learn from their mistakes.