If you have children, then I am sure one of the main concerns you will have when you and your spouse decide to divorce is the children.
What do you tell them? What do they need?
Separation and divorce also affects the children. Tell them what is happening. Keep things simple and age appropriate. Make sure they know it is not their fault and that you both still love them. Allow them to speak to either one of you and encourage a free flow of communication from them.
Be parents together – even if you cannot live together
If you can, you should both tell your children together. Work together as parents, putting your children first. Help your children understand how life is going to change. Children will want to know where they are going to live, where they are going to go to school and when they are going to see each of you. Some things might not change – but a lot will so help them be prepared for that. Be honest and realistic about arrangements and be prepared to listen.
Of course, it is an emotional time for your children. Let your children know you understand if they are upset or angry -but remember, they are only children and they might not know quite how to cope with those feelings. Teach them how to deal with their emotions and make sure they know they are not to blame.
It’s a good idea to tell their school also so that the school can understand the changes that will be happening for your children and can support them, if they need it.
Look after yourself
It is an emotional time for you, too. Do not be tempted to ‘overshare’ with your children or see them as your emotional support. You need to find your own emotional support – and from a professional counsellor if you need to. That is a really positive thing to do. You need to be well to be able to support your children.
If you speak to friends and family, be mindful that ‘little ears’ can be listening.
Parents for the long haul
Although you are separated and may be getting divorced, you are still parents to your amazing children. Remember that. All of the good, fun times you had as a family are not cancelled out or invalidated just because your relationship has broken down now. Try and be parents together.
Your children have the right to see both of you and to have a meaningful relationship with both of you. Don’t bring them into your arguments or make them choose between you.
Replace the love you once felt for each other with civility and consideration – or to be blunt, be polite! Your children do not want to see you arguing. Think to the future. Your children will want you both at parent’s evenings, the Christmas concert, university graduation, weddings and so on without worrying that you two are going to have a blistering row or that you cannot bear to be in the same room as each other. Remember who are the adults! (It’s you, in case were wondering….!)
Be respectful of each other and the wish that both of you want to be involved in the children’s lives, whether that is making decisions about them or going to football training. Make it easy for your children.
If you need to discuss something, do not do it when ‘little ears’ are about nor at times when the children are being dropped off or collected. Make a time to speak away from the children. That could be going to a coffee shop, going out for a meal or whatever you want.
Listen to each other and listen to your children. That can be hard to do at first … but it does get easier.
If you need help, contact us.