Divorces and separations are difficult for children to adapt to and to adjust to as they upset the previous family unit, cause differences in time spent with either parent, cause separations of households, changes in school districts, changes in travel arrangements etc. The divorce process has the ability to radically change a child’s life, for better or worse, which may take significant amounts of time to adjust to. During a divorce there are multiple ways in which a parent can make small changes to assist a child’s adjustment to changes as a result of divorce.
Developing a Routine
One of the most important aspects in significant adjustments is the development of consistency. Children require a sense of consistency in order to feel secure and to grow emotionally. The development of a dependable and reliable schedule and routines allow for children to obtain this consistency and prevents anxieties about uncertainty that may develop as a result of drastic changes; such as, divorce or separation. In addition to consistency children also need for some aspect of control in their daily routine and activities. Control over small activities and decisions by a child allows for the child to reduce anxiety while improving their self-esteem and expression of self. By establishing a routine with some aspects controlled by the child a child may more easily transition in changes resulting from the divorce –therefore allowing more time for the development of new relationships with each individual parent.
Do Not Allow for Your Children to Feel at Fault for the Divorce
When children feel at fault for a divorce they can develop serious emotional and psychological problems that at times can become life threatening. Serious guilt caused by the situation of divorce is typical in children in a separation situation and the guilt can develop and worsen over time. It is important to reassure children that the divorce is not a result of anything that they did and that both parents still love them. In some situations children may even fantasize about parents getting back together during or following a divorce and may feel immense guilt when they cannot achieve their goal of getting their parents back together in a relationship. It is imperative for parents in this type of situation to ensure through emotional support that guilt does not exist in the child’s conscious as the manifestations of guilt can progress to cause suicidal tendencies and life threatening depression.
Make Lots of Time for “Special Time” With Your Children
Often in divorce situations parents lives increase in activity cause by changes in life style and the divorce proceeding. This can lead to time spent with the other parent but while the parent is distracted by the hustle and bustle of daily life and errands. Quality time with undivided attention is necessary for children especially when they are coping with dramatic changes and uncertainty. In developing a routine parents should ensure that there is time in each day for unstructured bonding time for interaction and unstructured play time. This play time allows for necessary bonding with parents, which gives the child the ability to develop new relationships, with parents that may have new developing personalities following a divorce.
Communicate with the Children about the Divorce and be Truthful
All information concerning large changes about the divorce can be discussed with the children and should be discussed so that there are no unexpected changes that lead to the child’s emotional or psychological distress. Information does not have to include in depth details and conversations should be adapted to age appropriateness. It is important in your communications with your child to be truthful and forthcoming as any discrepancies or false information can cause damages and trust issues between yourself and your child. You should plan all conversations with your child in advance and be prepared to appropriately answer any questions that they may have concerning the divorce situation. In conversations in which you are trying to understand your child’s emotional feelings about a situation it is important that you get them to share their opinion on the situation prior to you sharing your feelings and emotions. Children may feel that they are unable to be truthful about their feelings if they feel that their feelings may conflict with their parents and they may then adopt the perception of the parent while masking their true feelings. In some cases continuous masking of emotions can lead to emotional, psychological, and identity issues. It is most important to be patient especially in communication situations with children.
Allow for Your Kids to be Kids
Just because you may need to make radical changes to your life and living environment does not mean that the children should be forced to grow up faster than necessary. You should ensure that environmental pressures are not generating changes in your children cause pre- maturity that may negatively affect a child and relations to their peer groups. Ensure that your children are not exposed to materials as a result of the divorce that may lead to premature or forced accelerated development.
Don’t Engage Negatively with the Other Parent in front of Your Children
Negative discussions about another parent to a child are psychologically and emotionally damaging to the child and can ruin a child’s relationship with the target parent. When a parent intentionally attacks the other parent in front of the minor child it is considered Hostile Aggressive Parenting and can eventually result in Parental Alienation Syndrome. Both psychological cases generate significant problems with the parent child relationship and create bonding and emotional connections to the target parent. It is imperative to stop negative discussions about the other parent to the child in lieu of positive conversations and appreciations for the other parent. Some of the best advice for this type of situation is to follow the rule: if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Don’t allow for arguments to take place in front of the children and if issues arise that may lead to negative conversations it is best to wait to address the issues with the children and instead distract the children with a different distracting activity until you are able to adequately address the situation.
Take Care of Yourself
Lastly, you need to ensure that you are caring for yourself and that you are meeting your own needs. You cannot appropriately care for your children and be supportive for them if you cannot adequately care for yourself. Plus if you find yourself bogged down by stress, emotional unrest, anxiety, depression, etc. it will likely trickle down to the children you care for even if you do not outwardly express or communicate these problems to your children. In other words if you are being extremely negatively impacted by the divorce situation then your children may also intuitively be impacted in the same way. It is important to prevent the spread of emotional and psychological distress by caring for yourself. You can take care of yourself by exercising regularly, taking medicine as needed, avoiding addictive substances, and overall promoting your entire sense of self wellbeing. If you find yourself facing a divorce with children, call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with an experienced Georgia divorce attorney today.