Children of divorcing parents frequently struggle with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about what the future will bring. Parents, on the other hand, are often at a loss as to help their children navigate the murky emotional waters caused by a typical family breakup.
Approximately 1.5 million children are affected by divorcing parents every year. The good news, however, is that–although the initial breakup can be painful–most children adjust well over a period of time.
How quickly they adjust largely depends on how the parents handle the situation.
Following are eight success strategies based on things children of divorce wish they could say to their parents.
“Please don’t talk about money in front of me.”
Divorce often leaves one or both parties with considerably less discretionary income than they had as a couple.
The need to tighten the financial belt is frequently a reality in most post divorce families, and while the children need to know that money won't be flowing as freely, they don't need to be informed of the gritty details.
This is particularly true in cases where the other parent is failing to comply with child support obligations. Most children will undoubtedly feel as if the other parent does not love them if they are told that financial support is being withheld, so as frustrating as it may be, keep the discord between the adults in the relationship.
If finances are particularly tight, it's okay to let children know that necessary sacrifices are crucial to the well-being of the family, but try to minimize your anxiety concerning money problems.
“Let me keep viewing both of my parents the way I used to.”
In other words, don’t put the other parent down in front of your children.
This piece of advice is probably the one most often repeated by counselors and other professionals, yet it's also the most common mistake parents make during the process of divorce as well as its aftermath.
Although it can certainly be tempting to badmouth the other parent in front of the children, this not only causes lasting scars, but it sets the groundwork for resentment against you that may last for the rest of your children's lives.
When in doubt, always aim for the high road -- you'll be glad you did after the initial anger wears off.
“I don’t want to be your confidant.”
Some parents find themselves using their children as confidants, but this is rarely a good idea. There are times that the children want to be a comfort to their parent(s), but the emotional turmoil it will cause is too close to the heart for them to brush off—regardless of how mature they may seem.
Although it's certainly okay to share parts of your adult life with your children, avoid talking with them about dating issues, work problems, conflicts with friends or family, Never ask your children for advice concerning an adult conundrum; more than ever, children need to feel as if you are in control of your own life.
“I don’t need all the details.”
Although children have a right to know certain basic information concerning the divorce, overwhelming them with details just causes confusion, resentment, anger, and fear.
Tell them what they need to know about where they will be living and other pertinent details, but let them lead the way in discussions concerning other aspects of the divorce. Children need to process the situation in their own way in their own time.
“Don’t cut out the other important people in my life.”
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even close family friends who are staples in your children’s lives need to remain there, whether or not it makes you uncomfortable.
Children still love these people and need them in their lives. Many parents find themselves disassociating with the relatives of the other parent, but this can hurt children badly by depriving them of valuable family connections.
Making an extra effort to ensure that these relationships remain as normal as possible helps children retain a sense of stability in their lives.
Continue attending family gatherings and make certain that children have access to the other parent's relatives through telephone calls, social media, and even by post. Don't automatically count on the other parent to keep these relationships intact, particularly if you're the custodial parent.
“Don’t move me away. At least, not yet.”
Many people feel as if they need a clean break from their former spouse as well as from all aspects of their lives together. To escape, they may decide to uproot themselves and move to an entirely new location.
If you’re the custodial parent, the transition to an entirely new setting may not be in the best interests of the children. Staying in the area provides them with the stability of familiar neighborhoods, schools, and overall communities.
If you're a non-custodial parent, moving far away deprives the children even more of the presence you’ve had in their lives.
If at all possible, both parties should resolve to remain in the area for a period of at least one year.
“Don’t make it hard for my other parent to see me.”
Acting out of spite to make things more difficult for the other parent is something most children easily pick up on. Sabotaging visitation plans, for instance, only frustrates children and makes them resent you for keeping them from seeing their other parent.
Always stop and ask yourself if what you're doing is in the best interests of the children when negotiating visitation with the other parent.
“Don't try to buy my love and affection.”
Parental guilt is a potent driver, and many parents attempt to soothe hurt feelings and reassure children that they are loved by giving them gifts and money.
A weekend camping trip during this time, and the memories it creates, has far more value than an a much-longed-for material gift. Children will ultimately resent it if you routinely purchase gifts as a replacement for your time and attention.
Even if your time is limited due to a work schedule, they'll appreciate the time that you are able to spend with them more than they will the latest electronic device or game.