HOW DO I HELP MY KIDS ADJUST AFTER DIVORCE?
I find that most individuals with children that come to see us about a divorce have spent a long time weighing the choices before them because of their kids. Responsible married parents worry about the consequences of divorce on their children. Will their kids adjust after divorce? Will they be troubled teens? Can they grow up to be successful, productive adults and members of society? When the time comes, will they be able to engage in their own long-term relationships?
These are reasonable fears, and divorce is definitely a choice that needs to be grounded in absolute need, and not mere wants.
The reality is that for many marriages divorce is the only option. Having seen many, many divorces come through my office, I have observed that there are certain behaviors which are almost guaranteed to help children adjust after divorce and thrive as children and later on adults.
FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR WELL ADJUSTED CHILDREN AFTER DIVORCE
- Eliminate conflict between ex-spouses. Conflict between parents, especially after divorce, is extremely harmful to a child’s sense of safety, belonging and inner peace. Experiencing cordial communication between their parents helps children feel grounded and more easily adjust to the new living schedule. Not only that, but they learn that they can respect others despite different opinions.
- Provide stability. It may be tempting to focus a lot of your attention on dating or a new career after divorce. But the fact remains that you are no longer a lone person, you are first and foremost a parent. Providing stable schedules, normal activities, traditional meals and a clean, tidy home will go a long way towards helping your children feel like they still have a home and parents that are invested in them.
- Establish the same rules at both homes. Children are clever. They can spot a discrepancy from a mile away. If you and your ex-spouse have different rules for each home you face the certainty that kids will take advantage of the inconsistency and play both sides to their advantage. Creating similar rules in each home tells the kids that they are loved and that you still expect them to live by certain rules and boundaries. They will be unable to run from one parent to the other to get a different answer.
- Be complementary of the other parent, and nothing else. Children identify with both parents, even if they don’t freely admit it. When you choose to demean or criticize your ex-spouse with your kids, or in their presence, they feel the criticism deeply, feel demeaned themselves, and become defensive of the other parent. Find a support group to hear you out and blow some steam, and make sure that you only speak positively about the children’s other parent in their presence. Trying to get the children to take sides by being critical of their other parents will never work.
- Work on yourself. Neither spouse is perfect nor (most of the time) faultless in a divorce. We all have something to work on. Getting yourself into some counseling to help you with the destabilization of your own life due to the divorce can only help in becoming a stable, supportive, single parent. Take time to iron out the kinks in yourself and watch how you are better able to handle this new life, full of challenges and possibilities. Working on your own shortcomings will show your children that it is okay to admit when we are wrong and to change.
DIVORCE IS NOT A SENTENCE FOR KIDS
These basic principles, among others, can help you and your children adjust to divorce and continue on with life in a new way. Parents that establish mutual respect and good co-parenting practices can find safety and stability for their children despite of divorce.
PICK A PARENTING PLAN THAT WORKS FOR YOU IN UTAH
Choosing a parenting plan that works for both parents and is in the best interest of the kids is key in establishing a stable and safe co-parenting routine. At Hoyer Law we are fully invested in putting the children first. A divorce and custody attorney can help you design a custom parenting plan that is fully spelled out to limit conflict, and one that abides by Utah divorce laws. Please call our office if you are considering a divorce. We are proponents of compassionate yet aggressive representation, and of watching out for the best interest of your children.