By: Leslie Barrows
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Divorcing with Children 101
Divorcing with Children Without Anxiety
Raising happy children after divorce should be the goal of both parents. The decision to divorce can be challenging when parents consider the potential impact on the children. It is a good idea to prepare ahead of time and figure out what to tell them, either together as parents or one on one. Many divorced parents say their kids are happier after the divorce, no longer witnessing unhappy parents in a bad marriage. Telling the kids and working with their range of reactions can be a challenge. Mental health professionals can be great resources, a neutral third party with whom children can be blunt.
During your divorce, there are two important things to remember. First, don’t talk to your kids about the divorce or tell them negative things about their other parent of whom they are half. Second, do spend time reassuring your children and making them feel safe and secure.
Making sure your children know that the divorce has nothing to do with them is important. As you give them reassurance that the divorce will not change anything with exception of possession schedules for visitation, do some research and do appreciate the advice of your attorney, mental health professional, and others who have an impact on kids. Extended family members, teachers, and peers from sports, school and church can all play an important role in divorce and raising kids in 2019.
You may also appreciate this article in Parenting Magazine with additional tips for divorcing with children, Raising Healthy, Happy Kids Through a Divorce.
Is the Divorce Better for the Kids
No kid ever said I wish my parents would get back together and fight all the time. It can be terribly challenging for kids who watch parents in unhappy and sometimes violent marriages. Children need to feel safe. Children need to feel secure. Children need to feel loved.
When ending a bad marriage, you have more one on one time with your children to nurture their needs of safety, security, and love. Letting them know they are not broken just because your marriage ended is also important. If you and your former spouse can co-parent effectively and focus on reassuring the children, everyone can move forward in life in peace.
Telling Children About the Divorce
How to tell kids about the divorce is a challenging question parents face. Young children in pre-school years don’t really know what divorce means. Telling them that Mommy and Daddy are no longer going to live in the same house but will still see them regularly, begs the question, who is going to take care of me then? The fundamentals of life can be scary to a young child and it is so important to spend quality time with them and give them the reassurance they need.
Pre-teens know a little more but can be confused about why the divorce is happening. Telling your children, you plan to divorce is scary for older children who are just getting their footing in the world. Even though they are better prepared for divorce, the sense of security and permanency of the family unit is gone. Their minds may wander and wonder if anything in the world is secure or permanent. Telling children about the divorce can be an opportunity to create new bonds and schedule important one on one time with the child.
Children Reacting to Divorce
How will children react to the divorce? Consider a four-year-old and a 14-year-old adapting to their parents’ divorce. The four-year-old may be young enough to accept information about a world they are still figuring out, compared to the 14-year-old who thinks they know everything. But what the older one doesn’t really know is why their parents are fighting or what leads to divorce.
Kids may try to please parents by not being a wrench in the family. The older ones likely know other kids from divorced parents and see it is okay and there is nothing to worry about. That said, the second a new partner shows up, all bets can be off, and children may act out to get attention. This may be the time the school calls and the once well-mannered student is now bullying other kids.
Surprising Anxiety Considerations when Divorcing with Children
- Co-parenting is not something we are born to know how to do. Some of the things we try to make everything well with a kid can backfire. Take, for example, letting your child decide where they want to stay and letting them create their own visitation schedule. Mental health professionals often say children complain about being asked to pick between parents because they are don’t want to hurt either parent’s feelings.
- Having no predictable custody and visitation agreement can be a problem. While it seems like a nice idea to be very flexible and go with the flow, children craving certainty can be upset when they never know where they are going to be. Uncertainty adds to anxiety.
- Letting your child be the messenger between you and your spouse can also cause stress and anxiety. While you may not want to talk to your former spouse directly, telling your kid to ask their mother or father about pick-ups, drop-offs and scheduling can be a problem. When the child messenger relays information you don’t like, it is too easy to react and put your child in the middle. Instead, try using text messages or neutral information exchange websites like Our Family Wizard.
With Further Questions About Divorcing with Children, Call on The Barrows Firm in Southlake
Southlake family law and divorce attorney Leslie Barrows is the founding and managing attorney at The Barrows Firm in Southlake. A mother of boys and an active member of the community, Leslie is an experienced divorce and family law attorney with the best resources for all your needs when going through divorce and matters affecting children including issues of conservatorship, possession or access to the children, the right to exclusively determine the residence of the child, child support, medical expenses and more.
Divorcing with Children does not have to be difficult when you have the support of friends, family and the right legal and mental health professionals who support you during and after your divorce with children. To learn more about The Barrows Firm, our team, or filing for divorce, please contact us online or call the Southlake office at (817) 481-1583.