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Couples in broken marriages want out, but what often keeps them in is fear over how divorce may impact their kids. “Our marriage is broken but do we want to break up the family?”
So they work hard to repair the marriage. In some cases too much damage is done and it cannot be fixed. Divorce is imminent. Now the concern is: “How do we do this and minimize harm inflicted upon the kids?”
The answer is perspective.
Divorcing couples need a shift in perspective
Don’t look at the transition purely from an adult lens.
See divorce through the eyes of your child.
7 Kid-safety rules for divorce
These rules make sense from a kid’s perspective and should guide adult behavior. The 7 rules are an acronym spelling DIVORCE.
#1:Don’t put your kids in the middle
Kids face enough pressure adjusting to divorce, don’t add to it by putting them in the middle. Here are 3 “no-no” behaviors:
- choosing sides
- relaying messages
- dumping your feelings
#2: Interfering in their relationship with the other parent is off limits
Consider it a crime against your child’s human right. Interfering is psychologically harmful and in some cases abusive. It can take the form of weaponizing your child to harm your ex. Be careful, it can come back and bite you in the butt when your kids are older and understand what you’ve done.
#3: Venting feelings is for kids only
Kids need to process their reactions to the divorce. Give them the freedom to vent without judgment or guilt. If their angry at your ex-spouse, don’t encourage it. Simply validate it. Make them feel safe to be angry at you too.
Do not vent your feelings about your ex to your kids. You can talk in general about how divorce is hard but don’t seize the opportunity to unload negative sentiment you have toward your ex on your kids.
Find another outlet to vent your feelings.
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#4: Operate better as co-parents than you did as spouses for their sake
You may be relieved you’re out of your marriage but you are not out of your obligation to parent together. Your kids need you to function respectfully as a team
It’s time to put on your adult pants and work together. If it is hard perhaps you can get coaching from a family counselor.
If your ex-spouse is unwilling to participate then operate from this position –
“For the sake of our kids, I will operate respectfully and peacefully. I will not engage in uncivil conduct toward the other parent.”
#5: Reassure your kids that the divorce is not their fault
Kids may mistakenly assume it is their fault that the divorce happened. Reassure them that decision to divorce was a marriage problem, not a child-problem.
#6:Civility is standard behavior in front of the kids at all times
One of the most psychologically and emotionally damaging effect on kids is parents who are uncivil toward each other in front of the kids or in public settings. Make child transitions peaceable for their sake. Do not allow them to be caught in the crossfire of angry sentiment.
#7: Encourage the relationship between your kids and your ex-spouse
You divorced each other. Your kids did not divorce anyone. Consequently, their relationship with both parents must remain intact post-divorce. Here are some things you can do to encourage their relationship with your ex-spouse:
- Make the transition positive. “Today dad is looking forward to take you to his house for the weekend. I hope you have a great time!”
- Speak positively about the other parent. “Mom packed your favorite stuff animal. Mom always does cool stuff like that!”
- Encourage your ex-spouse in their relationship with your kid(s). “You’re a great parent to our kids.”
- Remember to take a positive approach when a new mate or step-parent is introduced into your kid’s dual family.
Now it’s your turn
Looking at divorce from the perspective of kids will make you think twice about how you approach parenting them through the transition. What rules are currently working? Which one(s) do you need to do a better job following?