The end of a marriage is hard on children, no matter what their ages. Their ability to process what is happening and why may vary with the circumstances and each child’s age, but even small children instinctively understand that their family will never be quite the same. Yet children are resilient, and if you and your co-parent are united in the goal of seeing them through the separation and divorce in the best possible way, you can be assured that your children will adjust and enjoy a healthy development.
Both of you need to understand the importance of shielding your children from the negative impact of parental conflict. Divorce is stressful, and the lines of communication between the parents have often broken down long before the separation. Many newly separated couples find that managing parenting arrangements is one of the more challenging aspects of the dissolution of their marriage.
What can you do?
Create a Parenting Plan.
A good parenting plan can help provide the foundation for assuring the emotional well being of your children. It outlines how decisions will be made, which ones require mutual agreement, and how disagreements are addressed. It sets out practical matters such as daily schedules, holiday time, and who is providing the transportation. This provides some predictability for your children and for you when you are all adjusting to new schedules, new locations and new ways of interacting. There are many options for sharing time and it’s helpful to think about how different options will work in conjunction with your work obligations and your children’s schooling and activities. For example, you may want to allow for more flexibility in the summer months, when your children aren’t in school.
It may be difficult, particularly in the beginning when feelings of anger or hurt are fresh, but it’s important to be positive and work together to solve any parenting issues that might arise. Don’t argue in front of the children. If there is a disagreement, schedule a time to discuss it when the children aren’t present. Complaining about your co-parent to the children or to someone else in front of the children also negatively impacts their development. And it’s not only what you say; you can also express disapproval of the other parent by what you do. Try to remember that it’s important for your children to respect both parents.
Recognize that you won’t always get it right.
Be kind to yourself and to your co-parent. Give yourself a break when emotions make it difficult for you to co-parent successfully, but also realize that your co-parent has bad days, too. If you are both guided by the principle that your children’s interests come first, you’ll ensure they feel protected and loved in both houses.