Most parents are worried about how their divorce will affect their children. Some to the point that they decide to stay together for the sake of the children, even though their own preference is to get divorced. There is no one right answer. Although studies have shown that it is the conflict within a divorce that has a detrimental effect of the kids and not the divorce in and of itself, each couple must make their own decisions.
If you do decide to get divorced, it is important to be aware of potential changes in your children’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. These changes are anticipated in the immediate aftermath of a divorce and can be only temporary. It is common for children to feel:
- Fear- where will I live, will we have money for food, will I see my Mom/Dad
- At fault- if only I hadn't failed math, then Mom and Dad would not have had that bad fight and decided to get divorced
- Conflicted- I love both of them but can't love either of them. If I love Dad, Mom will be upset with me, if I love Mom then Dad will be upset with me
- Sad- their sense of family life is ending
- Anger- their sense of family life is ending
- Stressed- need to step up and fill the absent parent role- be the "man of the house" or "the mom"
- Lonely- circumstances may pull children away from trusted friends and family. Children have no one to talk to or play with.
It is so important for parents to talk to the children about divorce. This is not a one time conversation. Make sure to periodically check in with your kids to get a sense of how they are coping and what they are thinking about the divorce. It is vital to reassure them that you are the adults and can cope and they can be the kids and not have to take on the other parent’s role. Most importantly, DO NOT SPEAK ILL OF THE OTHER PARENT. Your children have 50% of their DNA from the other parent. If you speak ill of the parent, in a sense you are speaking ill of your child.
Mediation allows you to communicate with your spouse during the divorce process to address these issues. You can decide how to tell your kids about the divorce and how to answer their questions, as well as reassure one another that there will be no parent bashing to the kids. Working together through mediation can create a healthier post divorce atmosphere for your children and allow them to cope with the changes that divorce generates.