Lawyers have nicknamed January “Divorce Month” because of the high number of divorces initiated during the first month of the year. But in reaction to that, January has also been named “Child-Centered Divorce Awareness Month” by the Child-Centered Divorce Network, helping parents experiencing divorce to prevent negative consequences stemming from divorce in their children.
While people like to debate whether leaving an unhappy marriage is good for children or whether people should stay married no matter what, there’s no doubt that divorce is stressful for the whole family. However, there are several ways to lessen the impact of divorce on children and remain a healthy family, even when mom and dad are no longer married. Here are a few tips on how to help make divorce less stressful for the kids.
1. Don’t discuss divorce details with the kids.
It’s important to be honest with your children about what’s happening, but don’t drag them into the middle of why it’s happening. Your children need to know that they are not to blame for the divorce, but they should not hear the details of litigation and negotiations. Keep the legal details and arguments for the adults to handle, not for kids’ ears.
2. Consider mediation.
When you hear the word “divorce,” you probably picture two lawyers hammering out an agreement between two angry spouses. But there are other ways of going about the divorce process, like mediation. In a mediated divorce, instead of both parties having a lawyer to represent them, they hire a mediator to be a skilled neutral party to help come to an agreement about assets, custody, child support and any other issues that need to be addressed.
Rather than having each lawyer trying to “win” for their client, a mediator’s job is to try to help the former couple communicate and compromise, something that will be very important as they continue to co-parent. Many lawyers specialize in mediation and can help you start off your new relationship as exes with better communication skills and agreements that benefit everyone.
3. Seek out support for you and your kids.
If you can’t vent to your kids about how stressful the divorce is, who can you talk to? Seek out safe spaces where you can discuss the impact and reasons for your divorce with someone who will understand. A therapist, a support group or even a friend with a listening ear can help get you through this stressful time.
In addition, proactively seek help and support for your kids before problems arise. They might benefit from visiting a support group for divorced kids or even talking with another family they know who has been through divorce. A family therapist or even children’s books about divorce can help a child understand the complex issues their family is facing and help them know they aren’t alone. No matter how you go about it, divorce is stressful for you and your kids, so it’s important to proactively seek help for everyone.
For more resources on child-centered divorce and how to make divorce easier for your kids, visit ChildCenteredDivorce.com and DivorcedParentsSupport.com for free resources, articles and advice about kids and divorce.