When you get a divorce, it changes your life. But, for better or worse, you’ll eventually move on. The same can’t be said for your kids. If you aren’t careful, it can leave deep emotional scars that never fully heal.
4 Ways to Protect Your Children in a Divorce
Adults, while certainly susceptible to emotional trauma, are far less vulnerable than children. A child is highly impressionable, fragile, and ill-prepared to handle trauma in the same way that grown, mature individuals can.
A divorce can be rough on a child, emotionally, developmentally, and relationally. And while you’ll eventually find a new partner and forge a fresh future, your child will forever be marked by the divorce. They will always have one parent “over here” and another parent “over there.” This isn’t to say that they’ll be miserable, or that it’ll even have a negative impact on their life, but it will be permanent. A child only gets two birth parents and a separation has a lasting impact.
Why do we bring all of this up? It’s not to make you feel bad or to encourage you to reconsider. Divorces happen and, in many cases, are what’s best for all parties. We say this to remind you that your children have to be the priority as you go through this divorce. And as important as other factors are, there’s nothing more vital than protecting your children and keeping them safe during this time. Here are several specific ways you can do this:
- Never Fight In Front of the Kids
Divorces can get heated – that’s understandable. But never, under any circumstances, air out your dirty laundry in front of the children. For the good of your children, keep it together when they’re in your presence. Raising voices, throwing accusations, and getting physical will do nothing but hurt your children.
If you need to have a heated conversation with your spouse, save it for a time when the kids are at school. Go for a ride in the car. Talk about it on the phone when the children are in bed. Emotions can run high, but there’s no excuse for bringing children into your fights and making them feel stressed and anxious.
- Think Before You Explain
Be very aware of the language you use when explaining to your children what’s happening. A three-year-old has far less context for what a divorce is than a seven-year-old does. And a seven-year-old doesn’t understand it nearly as well as a 15-year-old might. Properly explaining the divorce in an age-appropriate manner is very important.
Regardless of age, your goal as a parent during this time is to make your child feel secure. Prioritize spending time with them and keeping up with normal routines. The busier you stay, the less likely it is to affect the child in the moment. And through these activities and routines, you can find little pockets of time to talk, ask questions, and reaffirm.
- Minimize Trauma
Your children shouldn’t be involved in your divorce any more than necessary.
“While either parent can request that a child testify in divorce court, this can be traumatic for the child,” divorce lawyer Rowdy G. Williams points out. “ Ask your divorce attorney what the real benefit is likely to be from bringing your child in to testify, and consider whether it’s worth the emotional trauma to your child.”
In most cases, it’s not worth it. But, if you have to in order to make the proper case, you’ll want to do so with as much ease and comfort as you can.
- Don’t Use Children as Pawns
This final tip sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Children should not be used as leverage in a divorce. While both parents might want to use children to paint the other parent in a negative light, consider the position this puts a child in. At the end of the day, you’re both that child’s parents. Encouraging them to speak poorly of the other is a huge mistake that could compromise their relationship with one or both of you.
Adding it All Up
No two divorces are the same. And when children are involved, it admittedly makes things a little more difficult. But if you’re proactive and plan ahead for ways to protect your children, you can keep them safe and minimize any long-term emotional scars that could otherwise develop.
Speaks from heart, always too passionate and driven by emotions. Spins the words with kindness & sharpness, intriguing your ever-inscrutable minds.