Divorce is a stressful, often traumatic, experience. It is often even more painful when children are involved.
This is a confusing time for your whole family, and your children may not fully understand what divorce means. As a parent, you may not know how your divorce will affect your children in the future. You only want what is best for them, but the anger or sadness that you might feel from the divorce can get in the way of being the best parent you can be.
With that in mind, consider the following tips if you are filing for divorce and have children.
Look into Family Therapy or Counseling – A third party mediator may help your children open up about issues that are bothering them or feelings that they may be hiding from you. Licensed counselors can guide your family through this stressful process and give you ideas and suggestions for maintaining healthy relationships throughout your life – and theirs.
Children Can’t Take Sides – Your spouse may have committed adultery. You may feel like the better parent. But there are no winners and losers in divorce. There are also no teams. Do not try and recruit your children to believing you are the better parent or that your spouse is to be blamed for your divorce. This will create a toxic relationship between you and your child as well as you and your spouse. Speak to your spouse respectfully, and try your best to stay friends with him or her. Do it for the sake of your child or children if nothing else.
Don’t Badmouth Your Spouse – This also goes for your spouse’s parents, immediate family members, or new girlfriend or boyfriend. Your child has grown up to love your spouse and his or her family. Saying nasty things about them isn’t going to help anyone – and may cause your children to turn against you. Also, depending on your child, what you say may be heard later by your spouse, which can cause unnecessary tension and arguments.
Reassure Your Child They Are Not at Fault – It may seem like a silly thought, but many children believe they are the reason for their parents’ divorce. Continue to tell your child that he or she is not the reason you and your spouse are splitting up. If appropriate, you can explain to your child the reasons for your divorce. Reassure your child that both you and your spouse love them and will continue to love them no matter what.
Listen to What Your Child Wants – Even if your children are young, they are a vital part of your family. Communicate as honestly as possible with them about why you and your spouse are filing for divorce, what the future may look like for them, and what they want. And don’t just talk – listen to their responses. This will show them that you respect them and will do anything you can to make sure they are cared for and loved.
Enjoy the Time You Have – Even if you feel as though you do not have enough time with your child, remember that whatever time you do have is precious. Maintain a good attitude around your child and be the best parent you can be. If your schedule or your spouse’s schedule changes, be positive and be flexible. What do you want your children to remember about growing up: the great times he or she shared with you, or you excessively complaining about your spouse and the situation?
Agree on a Parenting Plan – Florida law requires divorcing couples to submit a parenting plan to determine time-sharing responsibilities and other child custody-related decisions. If you are filing a contested divorce, not all parental decisions have to be figured out by each spouse. However, it helps to come to an agreement and communicate with your spouse about how each of you will raise your kids. Compromising and making big decisions before divorce proceedings begin will start you and your spouse off on the right foot, and will leave your child without any surprises once the judge’s final rulings are made.
Watch Your Child – Divorce can trigger big changes in your child’s emotional or mental health. If children are not acting like themselves, you may want to seek professional help.
Pay Child Support – If you refuse to pay child support out of spite or anger, you are hurting both yourself and your child. Your spouse may decide to take legal action, and you could be found guilty of contempt of court. This could land you in jail or come with heavy fines.
Whatever you do, the most important thing is to be there for your children, assure them that you will never stop loving them, and try your hardest to act like a rational, civil adult – even if you don’t always feel like one during the process!