As difficult as divorce is for spouses, children are innocent victims of the family disruption. Children do not have a choice about whether their parents will divorce.
The lives of the children change in many ways and they are the ones that must do a lot of the work. For example, they are the ones who must now travel back and forth between two homes. They may have to change schools.
There are some things that you, as parents, can do that will make your divorce easier on your children. A child centered divorce focuses on the needs of your children and helps them with their transition to a new way of life.
Guidelines for Having a Child Centered Divorce
Children need to know they will still have two parents who love them and want to spend time with them. There are some guidelines parents can follow to make your divorce child centered.
- Never talk badly about the other parent. Even if one parent has a dependency or mental health issue, tell the children that you are going to make sure they have a relationship with their other parent that is safe.
- Give children permission to have fun when they visit the other parent. Don’t make them feel sorry for you because you will be missing them or don’t want to be alone.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep. Children are generally concerned about whether they will still stay in their family home, whether they will have to change schools, still be involved in extra-curricular activities, and how much time they will spend with each parent. Answer these questions honestly and do not tell the children that they will stay in the family or not have to change schools if you don’t yet know if that is the case.
- Do not use your child as a confidant. Children are curious about the reason and impact of the divorce and will ask questions, but do not make them your confidant. It is fine to vent to your best friend or counselor, but do not do this to your children.
- Avoid a high-conflict divorce. This conflict carries over to the children and negatively impacts them often for life.
Consider Using the Collaborative Divorce Process
A Collaborative Divorce is the best option for being child centered. The collaborative team can include a child specialist. Children are asked for feedback about their concerns and what they hope their lives will look once they are living in two homes.
You and your co-parent can they use this information to make your own parenting plan that will address the specific needs of the children and alleviate some of their concerns. The professionals can help you communicate with your children about the divorce and to learn what to say and what not to say.
For assistance with working through the Collaborative Divorce process so that you can have a child centered divorce, or for any other aspect of your divorce, contact us at Chase, Berenstein, and Murray, Counselors at Law.