Any divorce, even an amicable one, is an adjustment for children as they must get used to two separate households in different locations.
The crossover between households is a difficult one for them as they shift from one parent (and one set of rules) to the other parent (with perhaps a second set of rules).
It is up to both parents to ease this transition, and they can help tremendously by following a few rules:
Explain the Schedule
A parenting schedule for children will depend on each family’s circumstances. Some parents divide their time with the children 50-50, while other households have a custodial parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time, while the non-custodial parent receives agreed-upon visitations, such as weekends.
Children must understand their schedules. This can involve a simple calendar or an electronic schedule for older children which they can access on their phones. That way, they will have a quick and easy reference as to where they should be on any given day.
Don’t Have the Children Pack and Unpack Bags
Taking a trip is one thing. Shifting from one home to another is something else entirely. Why add more stress to the schedule? Staying with a parent isn’t a “visit.” The child is at home in both households, not traveling. He or she should have the necessary clothes and toys in both homes.
They will likely be carrying their schoolwork, but that should be it. Both parents need to create a home, not a Holiday Inn.
Parents Need to Be Civil When They Meet
The parents are divorced, and, likely, they don’t look forward to seeing each other. However, depending on the age of the children, they are likely to remain in contact for years. Be respectful toward one another – that means, be punctual, let the other parent know when you are running late, and avoid conflicts, arguments, and disagreements in front of the children.
Keep in mind that the parents are divorced, but no one divorced the children.
The Effects of Divorce on Children
While the parents may be relieved that the marriage is over, it is a traumatic experience for the children, who may be blaming themselves for the split. Their behavior may change as they try to attempt to adjust to the new situation. They may act up, do poorly in school, feel anxious, and perhaps side with one parent against the other.
Younger children will be very confused, while anger and guilt are common emotions among teens with divorcing parents.
To help children adapt, parents can do the following:
- Make sure the child continues to feel loved.
- Parents need to remain active in the child’s life. You may be divorced but having both parents attend the school play or sporting event is still crucial to the child.
- Work with the other parent. Discuss any matters involving the child in a civilized manner.
- You may not want to be near your former partner, but he or she is still your child’s parent. Speak well of him or her in the child’s presence and encourage as much contact as possible. Never bad-mouth the other parent within the child’s hearing.
- Allow your child to express his or her feelings and encourage honest communication. They are likely confused, angry, resentful, and anxious, and they should be able to share those feelings with both parents.
- All parents need to be flexible, but you should work with your ex to maintain certain rules, such as when to do homework, the need to do chores, bedtime, etc.
- If the divorce has become overwhelming for all, consider seeing a family counselor.
- One parent should never ask the child to spy on the other parent or provide news of someone “new” in his or her life.
- Ensure that the children have plenty of contact with extended families, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides, who can help reassure them that they are wanted and loved.
Transitioning the children through a divorce is the responsibility of both parents. Most parenting schedules these days involve equal time with both parents, and they need to work together at communicating about the children’s needs, school situation, and medical requirements.
The children come first, and the parents’ antipathy needs to be put on hold for their sake.