When parents decide that they cannot provide a harmonious environment for their children and they feel it is necessary to terminate the marital agreement that they have committed themselves to, it can be a very difficult decision for the children to live with. The children are not responsible for the parent's relationship. This is an obvious statement yet a difficult one for children to understand.
Because of the difficulty children of all ages have with divorce here are a few tips that parents might find helpful in making the transition from Mom and Dad as a team to Mom and Dad as two separate families.
1. Take the time to explain to the children what is happening and why. This is best done by both parents meeting with the children. If there is too much animosity each parent should meet separately with the children to explain and answer questions they may have.
2. Explain to the children is that the separation was/is not their fault. They will have overheard arguments about them and may have drawn the conclusion that they are to blame for the separation.
3. Tell them why you are getting divorced. They need an answer to this question to make some sense out of what, to them, is a confusing time. The answer does not need to be complex but just enough for them to understand. "Mom and Dad just can't get along," is sometimes good enough.
4. Don't criticize the other parent. The children love both of you and just because you are upset with your ex-spouse does not mean that the children agree with your thinking. A valuable gift that you can give your child is to not criticize their other parent. If your ex-spouse is a louse, the children will figure it out. But if you are always critical the children will learn to shut their ears because that is not what they want to hear. As a result, it will take longer for them to discover what you have discovered about your ex-spouse.
5. Give the change time. Divorced individuals report that it takes a Christmas or two to adjust to a separate, two family Christmas celebration. Most likely the children will go through a grieving process. They have lost a single family living situation that was valuable to them. From their point to view, they had no control of the happening in their life. Most likely they will experience denial, anger, confusion, and a time of thinking it through before they can accept what has been "forced" upon them.
6. Don't feel sorry for them and try to "buy" their love. They will see right through any attempt on your part to give them things or to treat them with activities that cost money. Children report to me that the thing they want most from the parent that is not physically present is jut time. They want to build a relationship with the other parent. Relationships can only be built by spending time with the significant other. There will be no memories if no time is spent with your child. Time with you is one of the most valuable things you can give your child.
7. Keep close to your child. Remember their birthday and be their when there are special events in their life. When you remember the special times in a child's life they feel that you are still there on their cheering team and it doesn't seem as hard being with out you at other times.
A divorce does not have to signal the end of the world to a child. The wise parents will take the time to consider the feelings and adjustments that the child is having, and take action to assist the child through the separation process.