Many partners divorce with children having come of the marriage. A divorce can be a confusing and emotionally detrimental experience for children, especially when the issue of custody comes into play. Let’s examine five ways you can help your child cope with divorce, and avoid causing them unnecessary harm.
- Encourage Regular Communication
It is important to communicate with your child on a regular basis. Take a few minutes out of your day when your child comes home from school to focus specifically on them. Dinner can wait, work can wait. Your priority is making sure your child knows that you are not only approachable, but available in their times of need.
- Keep Things Amicable
Few things are more emotionally taxing to a child than being forced to side with one parent over the other. In fact, studies suggest that animosity between parents causes children to suffer the most emotional or psychological damage during a divorce. Stay in regular contact with your ex and meet with them publicly so both of you avoid displaying animosity toward one another in front of your child. The more civil you both are, the less damage you will inflict on your child’s emotional foundation.
- Treat Your Child as a Child
Remember that your child is still a child. Discussing your marital problems with your child will do him no good. Refrain from dividing responsibilities left by an absent partner between yourself and your child. Take on the load yourself until your oldest child is mature enough to begin sharing the weight. Let your children stay children for as long as they can; let their emotional foundation remain unshaken in their first years.
- Validate Feelings
Your child needs to understand that what they are going through is normal, and that any emotion they may feel during this difficult time is not only acceptable but valid. Take care to ensure your child has frequent access to means of expressing their emotions. You might consider enrolling them in a sport, affording them the opportunity to exert themselves physically. Perhaps your child is more introverted and finds solace in arts and crafts. You can also enlist the help of local support groups, agencies or therapists to help your child sort out what they are feeling. Listen closely to how your child is hurting and accommodate them accordingly.
- Cooperative and Consistent Co-Parenting
Stability is critical to your child’s emotional and educational development, so maintaining continuity and familiar structural patterns should be a priority. One way you can accomplish this is to communicate with your former spouse regularly and ensure that the homes are as similar as possible. During a weekend visit, for example, accommodations should mirror those in the primary home. If a child has their own room in their primary home, do not treat them as a guest by offering them the couch if possible.
Peter Van Aulen has been certified by the New Jersey Supreme court as a Matrimonial Attorney. He offers a free initial consultation. Call today to schedule an appointment..