Are you separating or divorcing from your partner?
Are you unsure how to manage the change and impact on your children?
Separating or a divorce is a huge life change, and it’s always stressful for a family. Especially if it falls around Christmas time. It’s often made worse by avoidable mistakes. As therapists, we’ve worked with many people going through these difficult times and we’ve seen just about every mistake and success.
7 valuable tips for separating parents:
1. Create a Plan
When separating or divorcing, you need a plan. Take the time to write out the steps you need to take to make things as smooth as possible for your family. If you have kids, involve them in the plan in an age-appropriate way.
2. Tell The Children “It’s Not Your Fault”
Children are highly sensitive, and a separation or divorce will be extremely hard on them. It’s critical that you take the time to explain to them what has happened. Make sure they understand that the issues between you and your partner are not their fault.
3. Don’t Blame the Other Parent
One mistake some parents make is blaming the difficulty of separation on the other parent. This is not the best approach. Even if the separation was not smooth, your children and family are under enough stress now. Making them distrustful or angry at their other parent isn’t going to help the situation.
4. Avoid Using Your Children as Messengers
It’s likely that during a separation, your children will be bouncing back and forth between homes. It can be tempting to use them to convey information if you don’t want to talk to the other parent. Our experts don’t recommend this course of action. It can be too much of a burden to place on your children, and it embroils them in a dramatic and highly emotional conflict that they should be removed from.
5. Maintain a Routine
Children will be very fragile during a time like this, so it’s important for you to maintain as normal a routine as possible for the family. Try to avoid changing behaviors, rules, or environments. Changing schools can be extremely hard at this time. This all goes double for younger children.
6. Keep Your Promises
The huge life changes that accompany a split can make it hard for children to maintain trust. If they can’t count on their family, who can they count on? That’s why it’s so important to keep your promises with children, especially over visitation dates. You have to be a solid figure in their lives.
7. Balance Fun and Discipline
Sometimes parents separating can lead to competition between parents. It’s childish, but it’s rather common. One common consequence is that one parent becomes known for giving gifts and having a good time, and not being involved in discipline or the harder side of parenting. Don’t be that person. Share the load equally with the other parent to make it easier on your children and your family.
Moving On – how can children accept change?
A divorce or separation is ultimately about moving on, and your children will need your support through this process. Keep the focus on the children by encouraging them to accept change. Help them to see benefits in their new situation whenever possible. And of course, don’t forget to manage your own emotions with the help of friends and family.
Healing from this difficult experience can be a challenge. If you and your family are having trouble adjusting, there are experts available to talk with to assist you to navigate a new pathway to parenting.