Most parents who are going through a separation and divorce are well-intentioned and want to do right by their children. However, sometimes parents don’t know what to do or say and they struggle to control their emotional reactions.
One of my goals as a divorce attorney is to help families break the cycle of familial conflict. To that end, I participated in a project to help parents minimize the trauma of separation and divorce.
While divorce is never easy, you can make this transition easier on your children (and ultimately yourself) when you consider: “What do I want my children to remember about how I behaved during the time of my separation and divorce?”
Tips for What to Do and NOT Do During a Divorce
Do keep emotional intensity down to a dull roar. If you can, avoid courtroom battles and custodial fights. Those moments create hard feelings that can last for years. Your children are already feeling vulnerable and scared about the divorce, the life changes that it brings. When you fight over them in court, your message is not about love, it is about possession and ownership.
Don’t turn older children into confidants. Instead, share your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist. They will provide you with better insights than your child ever will.
Don’t make hurtful statements about your ex, their family or friends. Don’t play the victim role; don’t make the other parent “pay” for breaking up the family. Instead, use your divorce to teach your children how to overcome hardship and live with integrity.
Do listen to your children and validate their feelings. It doesn’t matter how old they are, they grasp the sea change that is going on around them. It is important that they feel like their views are heard and considered.
Do plan the divorce together. Easier said than done, which is why divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce is ultimately easier on the children. Because neutral parties are involved, they can help divorcing parents come up with a workable plan and then offer guidance on how to present it to their children. Open communication is critical during this time. Children are naturally savvy and intuitive about family dynamics. While it’s a tough conversation to have, they will benefit from having honest conversations about the changes their family is experiencing.
Don’t make sudden changes. If possible, wait until the school year is out before moving or changing schools. Tell them if a parent is moving out, and when. Give them time to adjust to the idea of a new normal.
Do allow your children to maintain their relationships. Unless there is a distinct reason to do otherwise, children need both their mothers and fathers. If this is a challenge, look for parent education programs that focus on improving the relationship between parents and their kids. These have proven to help children cope better in the months and years following the divorce.
Alternatives to a Litigated Divorce
If you want to avoid a contentious divorce, ask your attorney about divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce. Divorce mediation is a process in which divorcing spouses sit down with a neutral third party to resolve the issues in their divorce. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own attorney. This is a process whereby you and your spouse negotiate an acceptable agreement with some professional help.
In both situations specialists are brought on board as needed. These can include financial planners, tax attorneys, appraisers or estate planning attorneys. They can also relate to the children such as parenting plan coordinators and psychologists.
In the end, divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce is a less-stressful, healthier way to end your marriage. The legal team at CT Mediation Center can help you decide which approach is best for you.
If you have questions about a collaborative divorce or divorce mediation, CT Mediation Center can help. Please contact us to schedule an appointment today.