Divorce can be an overwhelming experience, but the truth is that is occurs in many households and is often an attempt to make life better for children. Parents are not divorcing to mistreat children; they want to help them grow up in a more trusting and stable environment.
The issue arises when is comes to talking about the best ways to handle divorce with children. As a family law attorney in Queens, New York, our office recently took the opportunity to speak about our four top strategies for dealing with divorce and children.
#1: Talk about the impact of divorce.
This conversation is best had when while negotiating a parenting agreement. The agreement defines each parent’s roles in making custody and visiting schedules, their decision-making abilities, and money matters. It is important to take out negative feelings about a future ex-spouse when making these tough calls. This is a difficult task to accomplish, there is doubt, but what is key is remembering that both spouses will continue to fight with issues of anger and abandonment long after the agreement is finalized. This is a long-term discussion about raising children. It is not a battle to be won or lost. And it is not a conversation that should be had with children in the room. Co-parenting fails when a spouse expresses resentment or regret about the divorce with children.
#2: Maintaining a level of respect between parents.
Keeping kids out of the initial conversation brings up our second approach to handing divorce with children in New York. It will be hard to do, but vocalizing encouragement and positive reinforcement will make a huge impact on this new co-parenting relationship. It’s so easy to talk down an ex-spouse when they miss a playdate or are late on a child support payment. And these are issues that need to be discussed, but offering positive reinforcement of good behavior goes so much farther in these new parenting roles.
#3: Accept change.
A key issue parents need to understand during divorce is change: it’s happening and it’s real. Spouses have to understand that change is not only occurring to them, but also to their kids. And they need to adjust to a flurry of new things: new schedules, communication tactics, and financial obligations to name a few. These will impact everyone in the family. So having open communication helps this adjustment period. This can include regular check-ins with an ex-spouse, or creating an online visitation schedule. Many spouses stay in a relationship because the dangers of change and uncertainty of splitting up a family are scary. But addressing this fear of change and finding the best solutions for children is incredibly important.
#4: Talk with your children about life after divorce.
Promote an environment where it is OK to talk about fears or concerns. Touch conversations are just that, though, but they need to happen. Kids need to talk about how co-parenting will work, from where they will celebrate holidays to who will put them to bed each night. And issues will vary depending on a child’s age. Be willing to listen, not know all the answers, and work through things together as a new family.