You and your spouse are arguing more and more. The disagreements have escalated and neither of you is happy. You’ve tried talking, you’ve tried therapy; nothing has helped. Maybe you or your spouse has even broached the subject of a trial separation, but after some discussion, neither of you is sure you can go through with a divorce, for one reason and one reason only — the kids.
Your dedication to your children does both you and your spouse credit. The fact that you want to put their well-being ahead of your own happiness is admirable. There’s one thing most experts agree on, though — if your only reason for staying together is your children, don’t do it.
Don’t stay together for the kids
You may have heard about how traumatizing divorce is for children, but the fact is that living in a home with high levels of parental contention, where mom and dad are frequently at odds, can be just as traumatizing for kids, if not more so. Whether you and your spouse frequently argue in front of the children, or even if you are both just clearly dissatisfied in your marriage, your children will pick up on your unhappiness.
How to have a successful divorce, kid-wise
When it comes to your children, there are three keys to success:
- Setting boundaries
- Modeling resilience
- Letting your kids be kids
By attempting to implement these strategies and utilize them both during and after the divorce proceedings, you can help set your family on a positive new course.
Establishing clear and specific rules to protect your children from your strained relationship is crucial. Try to agree with your spouse on issues like discipline, financial obligation, and time management, as setting these boundaries can help eliminate confusion and thus possibly avert potential fights and emotionally-damaging interactions.
When your children watch you recover from setbacks and grieve appropriately, they’re learning. When they see you ask for help when you need it, or when they see you working hard in a healthy manner for your own happiness, they’re learning. You modeling healthy behavior and learning from your mistakes teaches them how to do so in their own lives.
Letting your kids be kids
While divorce means change, it doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — mean adult levels of conflict and stress for your children. Advisors recommend refraining from discussing your ex-spouse in a negative manner to, or even in front of, your children; try to remember that while the person is your ex, he or she is also still your child’s parent. Additionally, experts advise parents to avoid using their children as confidants. Instead, let your kids concentrate on having fun and adjusting to their new situation without worrying about things they cannot control.
One last important factor to consider is that, for better or worse, kids learn how relationships work from watching their parents. Through observing how their mother and father interact, children form deeply rooted views on how adults maintain and navigate healthy (or not-so-healthy) relationships. It’s important for them to figure out now that staying in a bad situation isn’t good for anyone. The good news is that, just because the marriage didn’t work out doesn’t mean the divorce won’t.
Yes, you and your spouse do have a responsibility to your kids, but that responsibility isn’t necessarily staying in a bad marriage on the children’s behalf. If you and your spouse really cannot make your marriage a happy one, and you’re both committed to making sure your children grow up happy and healthy, sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is to consider ending your marriage, then try to do it in a way that is as amicable as possible for everyone involved.