Separation. Divorce. You only need to say these words and already people begin to conjure up images of volatile, hostile, aggressive environments. It’s not exactly the perfect environment for a child to be situated in. These times are hard for everyone, even if everything ended amicably. Children need a long time to process and come to terms with what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen in the future. The best way you can help is to be supportive, listen and shield them from unnecessary heated moments.
Unfortunately, what you expose your children to during this time could seriously affect them, as it as a period in life of vulnerability and emotional uncertainty for everyone involved. People react to new circumstances in different ways, and you obviously want the transition to be as smooth as possible for the people you love!
Of course being careful of what you say and do in front of your children shouldn’t amount to lying to them. Honesty is still the best policy, and vital for keeping trust. However it’d still be wise to withhold certain details until they’re completely ready to hear it. Your explanations always need to be age appropriate. Another imperative point is not to do something that parents are often guilty of. Although it is something they usually subconsciously do, or at least do without intention. Remember not to tell your children how they feel, or tell them they don’t feel something when they do. Don’t deny them their right to emotions and feelings.
Be aware of your behavior
This awareness will help you avoid potentially damaging situations. Check your conduct toward your ex-spouse when your child is present; the last thing you want is them seeing you shouting, disparaging each other or getting physical; even if it’s just a prod or aggressively pointed finger. Body language and non-verbal clues give a lot away and are easily picked up by the kids. If you want your child to be mature, respectful and kind you have to exhibit those same favorable traits in your demeanour and actions. As a parent, you’re are always the primary role model in the lives of your children, whether you’re divorced or not. You want to instil your values in your children, so act how you wish them to act.
Equally as significant is maintaining relationships with both parents. For the development of your children, it’s better that you never prevent them from contacting the other parent and don’t get too involved in or try to prevent their relationship from naturally growing. If you have an agreement with your ex, stick to it. Don’t deny visitations or change plans at the last second out of spite or emotion. Remember what’s best for the children. To avoid exposing them to disagreements between you as parents, it’s advisable to use a parenting plan template and draw up a specific plan – one that you can agree on and stick to, complete with necessary details in order to decrease the likelihood of future disputes. Once you have something in writing, it’s harder to argue about or deny.
Finally, if children see you managing your conflict well through negotiation, empathy, compromise and (age appropriate) discussion it can educate them and help them learn skills for the future. It can actually benefit them by teaching life lessons on ethics, responsibility and constructive conflict resolution.
This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith of Custody X Change, a custody calendar software program.