How can we divorce without hurting the kids?
By Karen Grais Meyer, Divorce magazine, "The Good Divorce" feature
I believe that parents can do many things to minimize the hurt that children feel when their parents are divorcing. Here are a few suggestions:
HAVE EMPATHY for your children....to accomplish this, based on their ages and where they are in their development, put yourselves in THEIR shoes...think to yourself, for example, "If I was 8 years old and my parents did not speak to each other, and made me send messages back to and forth between them, how would I feel?"
PREVENT your children from witnessing parental conflict at all costs...this means never having a heated direct or telephone conversation when the children are anywhere in the house; even if you think they are sleeping, watching TV, have their headphones on and not paying attention, they are listening! This also means making sure that transitions run smoothly..pick ups and drop offs are not the time to discuss problems, grievances, child support. Witnessing ongoing conflict can have many negative effects, including creating tension and stress, anxiety, depression. Children need to expereince their parents as being in control of their emotions; if parents are not, children's sense of safety is compromised, leading to all kinds of problems...including children not being in control of THEIR emotions.
PARENTS ESTABLISH A FORUM for addressing issues with each other, such as meeting together with a mediator or counselor on a monthly basis, or even more often initially if needed, to address concerns, and work out the details of the parenting schedule and the children's schedules. Children do best when parents can stay attentive to the details of their children's lives. Parents cannot do this when they do not speak to each other...talking with a neutral person on a regular basis can prevent many problems and the children will feel assured that things will be taken care of for them.
PARENTS ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY for their emotions by seeking individual help from a therapist to adjust to the changes in their lives, and to have a safe place to express their innermost feelings...friends and relatives can be wonderfully supportive, but a therapist or counselor can be more objective and help sort out feelings... children's adjustment to divorce depends to a large extent on the parent's post separation/divorce adjustment;
PARENTS MAKE AVAILABLE to children the benefit of speaking to a therapist, school social worker, or allowing them to participate in a group for children of separated/ divorced parents in their school or church.
FINALLY, know that children are usually not ready to embrace a new person in their parent's lives at the same time that the parents are ready to have a new person in their own lives. Enjoy dating if so desired, but enjoy it when the children are with their other parent, a relative or babysitter; or, at least, do not introduce the children to a new person until they are ready.