Divorce is often difficult for children. Kids during a divorce may feel confused or guilty, and witnessing their parents argue may scare them. Many parents likely want to shield their children from this hostility.
So, how can parents equip themselves to face the challenges of responsible parenting during this emotionally volatile time?
5 guidelines that put children at the forefront
- Do not use the children. Children should not play any significant role in divorce proceedings. Parents need to keep their children informed of expected changes, but little else. Drawing the children into fights or using them as a go-between for parents who are unable to communicate may damage a child’s relationship or cause lasting harm.
- Do not make children choose. Asking children to make choices between parents, even in minor circumstances like choosing a parent to sit next to, may inflame conflict and put an undue amount of pressure on a child. Parents can still encourage children to voice their feelings or thoughts, though. In fact, a child’s testimony may be vital in a custody battle. Keep in mind that encouragement is different than pressure.
- Stick to a parenting plan. For parents who have issues communicating during a divorce, a parenting plan may help. Working with a co-parent to plan for the care of children is vital to protecting them. Set rules for conversation while the children are present, how much time they spend with each parent and how the hand-off process works for shared custody.
- Consider counseling. Divorce will take an emotional toll on a family. Though communication and honesty are essential between parents and their children, a professional counselor familiar with divorce can help families learn communication and coping tools.
- Children remain children. Though years may pass, the dynamic between child and parent remains much the same. Just because a family has worked through any problems that occurred during a divorce does not mean that parents can ignore these guidelines without consequence.
The best interests of the children
The most important thing for parents to keep in mind is that, during divorce litigation, a judge will rule in the best interests of the children every time. Following these guidelines can not only help children through the difficulties of divorce but also establish a pattern of behavior indicative of responsible and considerate parenting.