Everyone knows that divorces are hard on kids. They’re hard on them because they’re the innocent victims of somebody else’s decision. It’s also hard on kids because children thrive on predictability and reliability. And whenever there’s a divorce, even the adults don’t know exactly what the future looks like so the children are scared and stressed about what parent they’re going to live with, if they’re going to keep going to the same school, if they’re going to live in the same neighborhood with the same friends, etc.
It’s no wonder, then, that when a couple is divorcing they have a lot of questions about how to protect their kids from the ugliness that comes with a divorce. Here are four tips to help you do just that:
5 Tips To Keep Your Kids Out of Your Divorce
1) Keep Them Informed. When therapists say that it’s important to keep children out of divorce it doesn’t mean to keep them completely out. Children need to be informed about what’s going to happen in the divorce but only as it pertains to them.
Like I mentioned earlier, children are worried about what school they’ll go to, where they’ll live, etc. So to help them feel safe make sure to talk to them about that. And more importantly make sure to tell them how you’re going to make sure they’ll be taken care of and how you’re going to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible for them. But keep them out of anything else that doesn’t pertain to them. They don’t need to know about the difficulties between mom and dad causing the divorce. Keeping them informed of what they need to know will help keep them from asking questions that they don’t (like why are mommy and daddy getting a divorce?)
2) Don’t Tell Them Dirty Details About Your Ex. The best way to keep your child out of the divorce is by not telling them all the dirty details about the difficulties between you and our spouse that lead to the divorce. They don’t need to know. And despite how much they might ask why you two are getting a divorce, they don’t really want to know. It’s like when you were a kid and your parents went into the bedroom and locked the door. You probably wanted to know what was going on. But looking back, you’re glad they didn’t tell you. So don’t tell them about the affair, or the drinking or other specific details leading to the divorce. Keep it vague by saying something like “mommy and daddy just didn’t get along anymore and we think we’ll be happier if we weren’t married”.
2) Don’t use Children as Pawns to Hurt Your Ex. Another way to keep them out of the divorce is to not use them as pawns. A lot of times, parents will tell their children something bad about their ex in order to manipulate the children into harboring bad feelings toward them. Sure, this hurts your ex. But it hurts your kids even more. And in more ways than you’ll ever realize. So don’t participate in this kind of behavior. Treat children like children by playing with them, having fun with them and teaching responsibility. Leave your ex out of it.
3) Follow Through with Your Custody Arrangement. Another way that I see parents unintentionally put their children in the middle of their divorce is not following through with the custody arrangement. If one parent has a hot date one weekend, but it’s the weekend they’re supposed to take the kids, they simply tell their ex they can’t take them and leave it up to the other parent to tell the kids.
If you can’t follow the custody arrangement at certain times (which should be few and far between) then tell your children directly and be prepared to answer the questions when they ask ‘why’. Don’t leave it up to your ex to clean up after you. This puts children in the middle because they’re the reason that your spouse has to do some explaining. It also shows them even more unreliability and unpredictability which is harmful generally for children.
4) Don’t Use Your Kids To Communicate Between You and Your Ex. Lastly, another way to keep children out of the divorce is to not use them as communication tools between you and your ex. If there’s a parent teacher conference that the other parent needs to be to, don’t tell your children to tell them. You call and tell your ex directly. Same thing with dance recitals, football games, etc. Have a cordial enough relationship with your ex to at least talk about informational things – especially as it pertains to the kids.
Keeping Your Kids Out of the Divorce Helps the Whole Family
Keeping your children out of your divorce is not only helpful to your children but it also helpful for your whole family. It allows you to have a good co-parenting relationship with your ex and it shows your children what a healthy relationship looks like even with people you may not get along with. And most importantly, it helps your children to feel loved, cared for and gives them a predictable environment they can thrive in as they grow up.