Divorce is a hard process for every couple, but it’s particularly challenging if you have kids. While you will have some difficult moments no matter what you do, keep the following suggestions in mind to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Talk to Your Children
This may seem obvious, but having open communication with your children is more important now than ever before. Tell them that what is happening is not their fault, even if they say that they know. Do not use lies or falsely optimistic statements such as, “Nothing is going to change.” Be honest with your children about the future, especially if that means telling them that you don’t know something. Also, be sure to talk to them about things that aren’t related to your divorce. Ask about their school days, activities and hobbies. Doing so will show them that you still love them and care about them, even though your family situation is changing.
Take Care of Your Pets
Deciding what will happen to your pets is challenging when you and your spouse divide up your household. Particularly if your children are close to your pets, make sure that they can see your dog or cat as much as possible. Do not let your pet’s health slide in the chaos of divorce; the preventable illness or death of a pet would be too much for your children to handle. Keeping your pet healthy can be as simple as walking your dog and monitoring dog eye gunk for abnormalities. Spending more time with your pet will also be good for you, since petting animals can relieve stress.
Speak Respectfully to Your Partner
Depending on the nature of your divorce, you may feel very negatively towards your spouse. While you might enjoy badmouthing him or her to your children, doing so would be detrimental to their emotional wellbeing. Saying bad things about their other parent will not make them love you more but rather will confuse and upset them. When you meet to discuss splitting up your belongings and child custody, maintain a civil tone and do not use foul language. If you become so upset that you cannot stay polite, leave the room until you calm down. As always, keep in mind the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.”
Maintain Your Mental Health
Divorce is an incredibly stressful process. If you are going to take care of your children, you also need to take care of yourself. Amidst the chaos of work, legal meetings and moving, budget time to exercise every day. This could mean going for a run during your lunch hour and eating at your desk or going for a walk with your children when you get home. Many people who are going through a divorce find that seeing a therapist is the best way for them to manage their emotions. Find a counselor who specializes in family issues and consider scheduling appointments for your children as well. Finally, find the time to do things you love, even if it’s only for ten minutes a day. Read a chapter of a book before bed, watch a bit of one of your favorite TV shows or cook a nice meal. Even though you might feel differently, your life will continue after your divorce, and you should act like it.
Prioritize Family Time
Your family will look different from now on, but you are still a family. When you are with your children, make time for family activities. Go out for dinner every once in a while and attend your children’s school and sports events. Even simple actions such as reading a bedtime story will help your children to feel valued and loved. They need to know that even though life is busy, stressful and sad right now, you still love them and want to spend time with them.
Make New Traditions
You probably will not be able to have the same family traditions now that you and your spouse are divorcing. Do not try to keep things the same, or you will upset everyone. For example, if your children go to your spouse’s house for Christmas, find a way to make their celebration with you special without trying to compete with your spouse. Know that for some events such as birthdays, it will be easier for your children if you and your spouse can both be present. Depending on your relationship, that might not be possible, but if you can put up with him or her for a few hours, your children will be very grateful.
As you go through the divorce process, continue to prioritize your children. Be honest with them and know that while the coming months will be hard, you can make it through. Trust yourself and demonstrate your love to them every day.