Divorce is something parents must do their best to avoid but unfortunately, in some cases, it becomes inevitable. This column is about measures to be adopted to mitigate its adverse impact on family members and others connected to them.
Divorce affects everyone in the family. It does not affect just the two adults involved; it will certainly affect your children and even your parents.
To state the obvious, feelings are high strung; tempers are quick to flare and there's plenty of change.
Everything is far from normal and you will have a lot to work through from taking care of your kids, finances, feelings, legal work and much more. In the midst of all of that, you will be trying to bring some sense of norm to day to day living.
It is not easy but running to it blindly will not help you and particularly your children.
During a divorce, children are likely to be extremely stressed.
The level of stress they face depends on their age and of course how much they are exposed to the reasons of the separation. It's a confusing time when children are often finding a person to blame for the events unfolding.
It is very important that both parents remain actively involved in the lives of their children, maintain constant communication and be vigilant for behavioural cues to help them during this confusing time.
1. Update your children on what is happening.
It is important that communications starts from the point you two decide on the separation.
The information you provide to your children should be age specific. Younger children need not be given too much of information but in the case of older children, too little information may have them feeling like they have been left in the dark.
These are some points that can help make the initial communication period easier:
* Both of you together need to plan out what you two will tell your children. You need to maintain a united front in what you say and try to let your children know about the situation together.
Plan out what you are going to say and anticipate questions.
* Do not keep your children in the dark, instead let them be among the first to know as they should never get the news from someone else.
* Choose a quiet place with no distractions (i.e., no TV, electronics, do not discuss while playing a board game or anything else that is distracting). Sit face to face so that you can maintain eye contact at all time.
* Encourage your children to ask questions and in turn ask questions on what they feel and their concerns. Make sure that they feel that you are listening to what they want to be heard.
* Always be honest with your answers.
Do not sugar coat unnecessarily and never lie to make them feel better. If you do not know the answer to a question, make sure you let them know that right now you don't know what it is, but that you will figure it out and let them know. It's important that you are honest with what you say; they will appreciate it more than promises that are later broken on.
* Never lay blame on each other in front of your children.
2. Things to never do in front of your children
Never fight in front of the children.
This includes conversations on the phone. Move away from the children when such conversations take place and try to maintain cordial relations when children are picked up for visits or during other times you meet you ex. No matter how difficult the situation is, do not show your children anything other than stability.
It becomes all the more difficult if your divorce is less than friendly but it is important that you do not diverge anything heavy to your kids. This includes not discussing about legal terms and any custodial arrangements. When custodial arrangements are sorted address it separately but never let them hear if you are still figuring things out.
Try as much as possible to never show them the conflicts that arise between you two.
3. Acknowledge their feelings
It is a very important part of the process to let children know that their feelings are understood. Always let them know that whatever they are feeling be it anger, hurt or sadness it is natural and that it will get better.
Let them know continuously that whatever is going on between both of you is not a reflection of how you both feel about you children. Also always let that they never in way influenced your decision for a separation.
Making sure that they do not take blame for what is happening is very important.
4. Be involved in their lives
Children need a lot of attention. Irrelevant of their age, if you are going through a divorce, it is important to constantly be involved in their lives. Make sure you take time do things alone with your child.
Simple activities like watching a home movie, reading a book together or playing a board game is enough to make them feel that your attention has not slipped and that you are not focussing on other things.
Try as much as possible for both parents to be at school PTAs, concerts and other events that require parents to participate.