If you are considering divorce and you have children it’s likely one of your biggest concerns is how they will react to the divorce. So how do you help your children adjust to the divorce? Would it surprise you that experts claim that parents do the most harm to their children after divorce through their continued parental conflict? Unfortunately, this can be true, but there are several steps you can take to ensure your children move through the healing process and do not turn into collateral damage.
Steps to healing after a divorce
1. Do not use your children against the other parent.
If you are getting divorced it is likely you have strong, negative feelings about your spouse. Keep the children out of it. Recognize that your spouse can be a great father or mother and still be a lousy husband or wife. Help your children thrive by recognizing the positive influence they can have over the children. This includes giving them access to them.
2. Create a parenting plan that is in the best interest of your children.
The courts and state laws go a long way towards helping spouses meet this objective, but it is critical that you and your spouse have an open dialogue about what parenting plan will work best for your family. Experts will also tell you that co-parenting is about letting go. If your children seems safe and happy when they are with their father or mother do not try to assert control when they are not in your care.
3. Do not talk negatively about your spouse.
Not bad-mouthing your ex-spouse may be the toughest thing that anyone has ever asked you to do, especially if they are the one who cheated on you and married their lover and now seem like they have the perfect family while you are struggling to work two jobs. Let me repeat, do not talk negatively about your spouse to your children. Alienating the other parent could backfire. Instead, find someone to talk to including a therapist, family member, or friend. Talking to someone and getting emotional support is a critical step to healing after a divorce.
4. Do not expect your children to “bounce back.”
A co-worker commented one time he was just “waiting for his children to accept his new wife and move on.” Children do not just bounce back, especially if they felt like you have abandoned their mom and started a new family that seems not to include them. Divorce, infidelity, these are actions that have consequences, and unfortunately, they can impact your children for years. Children are generally much more concerned with feeling secure and knowing that you love them than whether or not you have found true love with a new soul mate.
5. Focus on your new family.
Letting go of the past is a struggle for everyone not just those who have divorced. Whether it’s a lost job, death, or financial crisis we all have to learn to pick up the pieces and move forward. It will take time and hard work but at some point you will have to focus on the current situation and not what you have lost.
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