No doubt about it – divorce is a topsy-turvy crazy emotional time – for kids and parents alike. And trying to be a good parent when you’re at your worst can be overwhelming and exhausting.
As both a child of divorce and a family lawyer for over 20 years, I want to help make things even just a bit easier for parents struggling emotionally with divorce. Below is a powerful checklist to help ease the divorce transition for your kids.
1. Try to keep the kids in the same school if at all possible. To lose the continuity of the same friends, teachers, and overall school environment could be even more traumatic for your child adjusting to the divorce shakeup.
2. Be intentional about interacting with the other parent with courtesy and respect. Do not fight or argue, or talk about the details of the divorce in front of the kids.
3. Make an effort to respect the other parent’s privacy. Refrain from asking the children questions about the other parent’s dating activities, for instance.
4. Do not ask the kids to act as a go-between by sending messages back and forth to the other parent.
5. Make every effort to support the other parent’s relationship with the child so your child feels free to love both of you.
6. Do not make disparaging comments about the other parent or allow family or friends to make such comments.
7. Make it a point to freely share information about their child. Consider online tools such as OurFamilyWizard.
8. Depending on the ages of the kids, stick to regular routines as much as possible for mealtimes, bedtimes, wakeup time, homework schedule, and curfews. Also try to keep rules, expectations, and consequences similar in both homes.
9. Keep the celebration of holidays and birthdays relatively the same. For instance, if Thanksgiving or Christmas was traditionally spent with one side of the family, it’s generally a good idea to continue those traditions, for at least the time being.
10. Encourage ongoing relationships for your kids with extended family members. When parents divorce, sometimes kids lose their cousins, aunts, and uncles on one or both sides of the family. The more people who love and care about your kids the less painful the divorce will be.
11. For extensive professional advice and tips on co-parenting before, during, and after divorce, read Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child.
Keeping your child front and center when making decisions can go a long way towards avoiding long term negative emotional effects on your child.
The importance of how the divorce transition unfolds for kids cannot be overstated. It is a time when parents play a pivotal role in their emotional well-being and in the success of their relationships down the road.
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