Some estimates put the US divorce rate at approximately 40% with projections to 50% in the coming years. Divorce happens. What most parents don’t seem to know is that their children are well aware of whatever problems their parents have in their relationship and do wonder about whether their parents will get divorced.
You can’t hide from your kids. Many behavior problems are found to be the result of children acting out in response to what they feel is a threat of divorce! If you and your spouse have decided to call it quits, you need to cooperate where the children are concerned! Most likely neither of you are in a cooperating mood by the time you decide to divorce. Perhaps only one of you wants the divorce. Whatever your situation may be, you should BOTH put your children first.
Many counselors offer “co-parenting” training and even “mediation” services to help you learn how to get along well enough to continue joint parenting of your children. You should both sit down with your children and discuss your decision. In doing so, be absolutely clear that both mommy and daddy still love them and will continue to spend time with them, only one parent will live elsewhere.
Children will get angry at their parents for divorcing. They may even become depressed or act out. Most will harbor a fantasy belief that their parents will get back together again. It is important that you recognize their feelings and do your best to acknowledge them and let your child know it is okay to be angry, but that this will pass and they will adjust to the new situation. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. They will also grieve the loss of the family nucleus. Allow them to grieve, but watch for signs of depression that may require intervention.
Do not use your children to ‘communicate’ with your spouse! If you need to talk with your spouse about something, then call them yourself. Your children should not be a ‘go between.’ Do not belittle your spouse or disparage him/her in front of your children. Grow up! You need to be the grownup in this situation!
Whenever possible, share transportation to extracurricular activities and jointly attend important events! Remember you were close enough at one time to have these children, so you can at least sit near each other at events that involve your children.
For the young child you can utilize story books such as “Dinosaur’s Divorce”, or “Mommy and Daddy Bear’s Divorce” to illustrate how their situation will change and how it will remain the same. Both of these books are available at Amazon.com and are very inexpensive. You may also be able to find copies at your local library, or other books for children on the subject.
Be emotionally available to your children. This may be difficult for you if you are having problems accepting the situation yourself. If that is the case you can find help through a marriage and family counselor. A counselor can help you come to terms with your new situation and offer suggestions for helping your children cope as well!