A dissolution of a marriage means new questions, worries and stresses for parents and for most children, in different forms. Throughout the divorce process, it is imperative to parent responsibly. As we have said many times, this means keeping the children’s best interests in mind every step of the way.
The way you conduct yourself throughout the litigation process may have lasting repercussions for your children and for you. Throughout the divorce proceedings, therefore, remember the following pointers.
Listening to kids and talking to them about their feelings is one aspect of being mindful. NOT sharing grown-up emotions and conflicts with children is just as important. Avoid being too self-absorbed in what you are going through.
Numerous studies have shown that children develop problems when there is a high level of conflict between parents–so parents should deal with their struggles and conflicts away from the children. Although divorce means changes for the family, it is not a given that children will have trouble coping.
Keep your emotions in check around the kids. There is no reason for children to share in the grievances, anger and unhappiness that their parents feel. Kids have their own interests and activities that bring them joy, and it’s healthy for them to continue to experience happiness, even if you are unhappy yourself.
A child’s happiness usually includes a deep attachment to both parents. In general, the law encourages meaningful contact with both parents. There are exceptions. If the court finds that visitation would endanger the child’s physical health or impair his or her emotional development, the court can bar or limit contact between that parent and the child. The court is likely to suspend visitation in cases where one parent has been found guilty of a sexual offense involving a child.
If a child asks questions about the details of the divorce, first explore their concerns and feelings, rather than providing overly specific information or your own feelings. Too much information can lead to more questions and worry.
It is normal for children to focus on how the divorce will impact them, not you: where they live, their pets, toys and other belongings, their friends, where they go to school, and so forth.
Reassure kids about what will remain the same. For a child, any change can feel like loss. It can help if one parent continues to live in the home, or if they can continue attending the same school.
Respect that each child’s relationship with their other parent is different from their relationship with you. Appreciate that for your child’s sake and avoid becoming jealous of their bond or the time they spend together.
Avoid putting your children in the middle. Do not confide in children (especially teenagers) as you would a friend, don’t ask them to spy on or report back to you about what the other parent is doing, and never openly criticize the other parent in front of kids. Such behavior is deeply hurtful because it makes kids feel they are betraying the other parent. It can’t help but affect how they feel about and interact with the other parent–and with you, too.
Listen to kids, ask them about their feelings, and be vigilant for signs of distress, including poor grades, truancy, outbursts, and getting into trouble. Professional counseling can help children and parents.
Don’t burden the child with adult-level responsibilities simply because the parents no longer live together. For example, boys should not be told they are now the “man of the house.”
Parenting responsibly during a difficult transition such as divorce can be incredibly challenging, but the effort ultimately will be worthwhile for you and for your children in the years to come.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Jones Family Law Group, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions or to schedule a confidential consultation, contact our team.
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