Divorce is one of the most difficult things a child can possibly go through. They have attachments to both parents, and now one is being ripped away from them. There isn’t any magic pill to make all the pain go
away, but there are a few things you may be able to do to ease the blow on your children.
Any of the suggestions I list here assume that you are divorcing from someone who isn’t purposely out to harm you or your children. If you are divorcing a physically abusive person, an addict with no intent to recover, or someone who does intentionally harm to your relationship with your children, some of these ideas may not be possible or even recommended. You must follow whatever is legally in the divorce decree, but above all, you and your children need to be safe.
Be as kind as you can to your ex-spouse, especially when the children are present. This means anything you may say about your ex-spouse to your children, any conversation you might have in front of them, any dealings you have with other family members. Bad comments from your mouth are likely to impact your child somehow, either because someone else tells them or because the comments create greater tension and
If you need to tell your child that your ex-spouse was unsafe to be around because of drugs or hurting them, do tell them the truth about this. It may sound like you are just talking badly about them, but anything that may be a really important learning point about their future life (like not repeating parent’s mistakes) should be shared honestly.
If at all possible, live close enough to your ex-spouse so that the children can have easy quick access to both parents. Find ways for the non-custodial parent to be involved in daily activities like homework, activities, practices, even family meals if this can be achieved. This might sound like a lot for two adults who were not able to stay married. But if you have an amicable relationship with your ex, these shared activities can give your children the next closest thing to having their family intact.
Stay single until all your children have grown and graduated from high school. Yes, that’s a big one. Many divorced parents remarry and sometimes have more children together. However, the focus on the children from the original family unavoidably gets spread more thinly when a new spouse and more children are added. This is an understandable adjustment when babies are born into a family that is from one marriage. But when they are born into a family with half siblings, this can bring up a real mixed reaction. Children from the “original” family can feel somewhat displaced and with an unclear sense of family identity.
As with many things, there are always positive exceptions to how this works out. And you may realize that you are one of the lucky ones that have had a truly smooth and loving outcome from a remarriage with or without more children. But this is not so in many cases. In general, remarriage (with or without new half-siblings) seems to add more burden to the children’s already upturned sense of family security.
I realize divorce is a touchy subject, for people who have divorce in their life either as a child growing up or as a parent now. There’s no judgment being cast here, only suggestions and recommendations that put the well-being of children above all else.
I am curious to know your stories about divorce, remarriage, making things work with parents and children. Some of you may have success stories, others may have stories that didn’t turn out so well. Divorce is relatively common and I know readers follow this blog for insight, support , and understanding. Whatever you have to share, positive or painful, may help someone else going through it either as a parent or as someone who experienced this as a child. I respectfully open the comments to anyone who wishes to share.