Any adult going through divorce knows that the process is typically very stressful. The same holds true for any children involved. The kids often experience the same mental and emotional turmoil as their parents do. Just like Mom and Dad, their lives are being torn apart and must be carefully reconstructed.
The good news is that it's possible to reduce the amount of stress and turmoil that your kids face. In fact, the New York State Parent Education and Awareness Program produced a Parent's Handbook that outlines a number of ways to make the divorce process easier. Here are five recommendations:
- Treat the other parent like a business partner or coworker. Try to detach yourself emotionally and treat the other parent like you would treat a business partner (or even a challenging client).
This means being polite, calm and business-focused. Don't get sidetracked by personal differences. When you interact with the other person, the goal should be simply to develop a plan for upholding the children's best interests. By minimizing the conflict and negative emotions, it creates a much healthier and less stressful environment for your children.
- Deliver all messages yourself. Never make your children the messengers and force them to pass information along to the other parent. This puts them in a very uncomfortable position, especially if the messages are emotionally charged or negative. For instance, avoid saying, "Tell your father that he needs to start paying for some of your soccer lessons," or "Let your mother know that she needs to stop dropping you off at Grandma's just so she can go to the bar."
- Remind the children that your divorce is not about them. It's easy for children to assume (either consciously or unconsciously) that they are to blame in some way for the divorce. Remind them that they are not at fault.
- Tell them it's okay to love the other parent. Don't make your children feel like they must choose between the two of you. Even though you may feel bitter and angry toward the other parent, your children shouldn't be burdened with the same painful emotions. Let them know that they aren't betraying you by continuing to care about their mother or father.
- Keep routines the same. If it's possible, let your children keep the same toys, the same school, the same bedtime routine, etc. Having their parents separate is a big enough change. Dealing with other changes at the same time only makes it harder to adjust.
For more tips about successfully navigating a New York divorce and making it as easy as possible for your kids, consult a skilled lawyer. An attorney can provide the legal counsel you need to make positive decisions about custody, parenting time and other issues.