Divorce is a stressful time with a myriad of sad and angry feelings bubbling under the surface.
When one is in survival mode it is challenging to make rational decisions that keep the child’s best interest at heart.
Here are some tips for a child friendly divorce.
- Both of you have to act like mature adults, as it is scary for a child witnessing parents fighting over them. It looks like a pair of toddlers scrabbling over a toy. The child wants to feel that the adults are in control of the divorce situation as well as their own emotions. Put your egos aside and concentrate on the children. Living in a revenge fantasy is not productive in getting through a divorce and being a support for the kids.
- A child friendly divorce ensures that children are keeping their usual routines. Maisy continues with her dance classes and Tommy goes to rugby practice. Having the kids maintain their regular schedule helps promote constancy in their changing world. Make sure that they see their buddies which is crucial in this stressful period.
- Children require fun (and so do adults). Parents are focused on the divorce proceedings and the splitting of assets. Kids need to blow off steam when feeling overwhelmed and to have some laughs. Go to an amusement park or enjoy a festival with lively music and ethnic food. See some films or a child friendly play. All of us require lightness in our lives for optimal physical and mental well-being.
- In a child friendly divorce, a child’s opinion is taken into consideration although does not mandate the outcome. If at an impasse regarding custody arrangements, consider getting someone else to assist. A child therapist who specializes in divorce can help set up a schedule that meets the child’s needs and is agreeable to the parents. Flexibility and creativity come into play when determining shared care. The child may desire a primary residence with liberal visitation by the other parent. The parent with less time might take the child out for lunch or a sport event in between when they have them for visitation. Try to work together on this issue.
- Keep divorce details away from the kids. They need to be on the side lines, not in the centre of the divorce. It is fine to say when you are having a divorce session, but not its agenda. I let my sons know that my mobile would be turned off from 11:00 to 12:30 on Wednesday, for example so that they knew ahead of time when they could not get a hold of me. Be vague about the reason for your divorce. Not the kids’ business.
- Consider having a Parenting Plan which is a formal way to set up guidelines for the specifics of shared care. It can spell out how holidays are split and who gets the kids on alternate school half term breaks. A Parenting Plan can prevents some disagreements down the road after divorce. It can cover different aspects of the child’s life that may not be addressed in a general shared care agreement.
- To keep the divorce friendly, consider having your child meet at least once with a child therapist to make sure he is doing okay. Or at least have a neutral third party who will listen to your child’s concerns and alert you if there is a problem. Remember not to blame the other parent in front of your child. Save that for venting with friends away from home, if need be.
A way to determine if your divorce is child friendly is to look at the motivation behind the actions and words. If any of this is about scoring points or retaliation – then the answer is no.
If you both recognize the kids’ needs and do you best to take care of them, then yes, you have a child friendly divorce. Your children will thank you years later if they are kept out of the middle of it.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.