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If you’ve got children and you’re going through a divorce then your first priority is going to be to protect them. You won’t have taken the decision to divorce lightly and in most cases the only reason the couple would consider staying together would have been for the sake of the kids but this isn’t healthy. In the long run it’s far better for children to have to go through the short term pain of watching their parents’ divorce rather than growing up watching a loveless marriage and knowing their parents are only together because of them.
Don’t argue in front of them
The first thing you need to remember is not to argue in front of your kids. Emotions are always heightened when going through a divorce and there’s bound to be the odd fight even in the most amicable of separations but it’s vital that you’re not arguing or fighting around the children, if you need to talk about who’s getting the antique vase or how you’re splitting the pension the dinner table is not the place. If you can try and arrange for a baby sitter to watch the kids and spend a few hours at a restaurant where you can talk through everything (in a public place).
Don’t put them in the middle
Your children are not your intermediates and they aren’t there to help you work through your issues no matter how old they are. Do not ask them to spy on your other half when they’re with them and never ask them to choose a side. In some cases, where the child is old enough they might be asked which parent they’d rather live with but this doesn’t mean they’re choosing which parent they love the most and this decision must never be thrown back at them no matter how upset you are. It’s important that they understand you two are the ones getting divorced and it’s going to have as little to go with them as possible.
Don’t compete through them
Your divorce is not a competition and neither do you have to over compensate. Even the most well meaning of parents can end up throwing more gifts than usual at their children when going through a divorce and the smarter your kid then the more chance there is of them realising this. No matter how nice your child is they’re soon going to notice they can get an extra scope of ice cream or be able to stay up past bedtime with just a little work. The last thing you want is your children spending time with your ex only for them to come back with a new toy collection so make sure you both agree they don’t get special attention and what one parent let’s slide the other parent needs to know.
Keep everything as normal as possible
It’s common for children whose parents are going through a divorce to suddenly find themselves with two homes, they have two bedroom and two beds and the last thing they need is suddenly finding they’ve also got two mommies or two daddies. If you are ready to move on try to take the time to get to know your new relationship before you introduce anyone new to your children. It’s not uncommon for a marriage to break down because one person has met someone new but you have to allow your child a chance to adapt before you throw anything else at them.
Talk to them
If your child is old enough to ask why daddy no longer lives at home or why they’re moving house then they’re old enough to be told what’s going on. Of course you don’t want to divulge the details of your marriage breakdown and you might need to simplify certain points but for the most part being open and honest with your kids will help them cope with the situation much better. By showing you’re being open and honest with them you’re encouraging them to always be open and honest with you and this is something that can remain long past the divorce itself.
Sam works for Bennett Griffin who are notaries and experts in Family Law