Going through a divorce is hard on everyone involved, but that emotional toll increases when children are in the picture. With young kids, you want to help them acclimate to this change in their lives. With older kids, you want to impress upon them how this is not their fault. Try as you might, it will affect them in some way or another. With that in mind, we’ve gathered some of the ways you can protect your children through a divorce. If you are looking for a divorce lawyer in Austin, call the Law Office of Tobie Kuykendall today. We’re here to help you through this difficult time.
-Remove the Cause of Conflict
It’s natural for a divorce to be a contentious event, but it is important that you try to avoid as much conflict as possible when children are involved. No matter how old they are, their behaviors, emotions, and understanding of social interactions are still being formed. Children will emulate behavior that they see, so do what you can to lead by example and show them how to effectively diffuse conflicts. If this means that a spouse that is creating household strife needs to leave the house, then so be it. Even if it is just for a couple of hours, separating to end the conflict can go a long way in terms of protecting your child.
-Keep Kids Out of It
Throughout a divorce, emotions are going to be running high. Even if fights crop up, it’s important that children aren’t caught in the middle of parental disputes. Many studies have shown the negative impact that high levels of stress and conflict have on children, which can have long-term effects on how they treat others as they grow up. In contrast, kids that go through low-conflict divorces emerge in much better shape, as they have been shown exactly how to handle emotional conflict in a healthy way. When parents are in constant conflict, they are less able to provide the discipline and attention children need to grow up well-adjusted. They will also be more likely to carry those negative emotions over in their interactions with their children, causing them a great deal of unnecessary stress.
-Handle Your Emotions
This may seem easier said than done, but controlling your emotions is vital to protect your children through this incredibly trying time. Throughout a divorce, you’ll go through a wide range of emotions — anger, frustration, resentment, sadness, love, and anger will all crop up. There will also be strong feelings of loneliness and in many cases, despair. Control those emotions instead of letting them control you to show healthy coping mechanisms to your child. It’s also important that both spouses practice nonviolent communication to teach children that even when you’re angry or sad, it’s never okay to resort to violence or hateful words.
-Prepare for Long-Term Conflict
Except in cases when one spouse will no longer be involved in a child’s life, divorce is not the end of a parental relationship. Through custodial agreements and child support payments, parents will continue to be connected through their children long after a divorce has been settled. This means that conflict will likely arise for many years, so it is a good idea to come up with a plan to keep your children out of angry arguments. Both parents should work together to keep their bond with their child strong while being accepting of differing values or parenting styles. Children that grow up with both parents present and amicable are able to be well-adjusted adults more often than in situations with a fractured relationship.
-Contain Angry Feelings
Keeping a cool head and being cordial will help keep your emotions under control. Because moments of extreme anger are usually temporary, it’s not recommended to reduce the amount of time your child spends with the other parent. Maintaining that relationship is hugely helpful for them to be emotionally protected in the long term, so it’s not a good idea to make knee-jerk reactions that would impact that connection. When contact between children and one parent is decreased, it can lead to a total loss of contact over time, something children never get over even as adults. If you think you or your ex-spouse might need help in containing anger, it might be wise to involve a professional mediator. Finding healthy ways to dissolve your anger will make everyone in the house happier in the long run.
-Help Your Child With Their Feelings
A divorce is one of the most tumultuous events in anyone’s life, but its impact is increased with children. Their world is being turned upside down and they’ll often be confused, frustrated, or angry about it. This can result in behavior issues and emotional outbursts they have little control over. Children can also feel guilty, believing they are the reason their parents are getting divorced. It’s important for both parents to come together with a plan for how to help their child acclimate to this massive life change and handle their emotions in a healthy and productive way. While we know how much you’re going through in this tough time, your child has likely never experienced anything like this and will need your help to get through it.
-Don’t Play Sides
Children are stuck in the middle when it comes to a divorce, which makes it easy for parents to try to get their kids to choose sides. Your children are not weapons to be used against your ex, so steering clear of this behavior is imperative. Not only will you fracture your child’s relationship with your ex, it will sow seeds of discontent against you as well. When children grow up and take a closer look at how they were treated through this time, if they feel they were just a messenger carrying slings and arrows against their parents, they’ll be resentful of being used. They’re kids and should be loved by both of their parents, not used as a passive-aggressive way to get back at an ex-spouse. Children that are forced to prove their “loyalty” to a parent are more likely to attempt to resolve that conflict by acting out or getting into trouble.
Throughout a divorce, everyone’s emotions are going to be taxed, but it’s important you don’t leave your child behind in this process. Their emotions, social interactions, and understanding of the world are still being formed at this point. This makes them vulnerable in an already emotional situation. Take these tips with you as a way to help your child grow up well-adjusted and strong in their emotional resolve. This is an opportunity for you to teach your child healthy coping mechanisms they’ll use throughout their lives.