When parents get caught up in fighting with one another during divorce, they often fail to recognize the toll their conflicts take on their children. Often, it’s only after the case is over, and the damage is done, that they realize how much pain their kids have endured. Fortunately, parents have the power to make choices that are better for everyone. Here are some of the healthiest ways to divorce when you have children:
Establish Ground Rules and Follow Them
It sounds basic, but agreeing upfront with your ex to not engage in certain behaviors around your children is one of the best practices possible. These agreements should include things like not talking negatively about one another in front of your kids, refraining from discussing the divorce, and never asking your children to choose sides. Your kids are watching, and it’s going to be hard not to let the stress of the situation come out.
Still, doing your utmost to keep them out of it will reduce their anxiety and help them feel safe. If your ex fails to play by the agreed-upon rules, don’t retaliate with the same behavior. Continue to provide a safe and neutral space for your kids. If your ex is disparaging you around the children, let your attorney know so that the two of you can determine how to resolve the issue.
Take Care of Yourself
As a parent, you probably are used to putting your children’s needs before your own. During divorce, it can seem instinctual to set your own needs aside to make sure your kids are okay. Your children’s well-being is essential, but you are not going to be able to adequately care for them if you don’t take care of yourself.
Divorce can bring up a lot of intense feelings, including grief, anger, pain, resentment, and fear. These emotions have a way of coming up at unexpected moments and then subsiding. The more you can do to be compassionate and kind to yourself, the better.
This means taking time for self-care and activities that help you feel calm. Additionally, be sure to reach out to friends and family for support. If you have a therapist, make time for an appointment. Do what it takes to care for yourself. When you attend to your own needs, you will be in a better position to be there for your children during this difficult time.
Choose a Non-Adversarial Process
Divorce does not have to involve you and your ex engaging in battle. However, when parties try to address issues on their own, it can be challenging to get past the personal feelings and problems that led to the divorce.
The good news is that most divorces can be effectively managed through divorce mediation.
This process allows both sides to work with a trained mediator to resolve the issues in the case. With the help of a divorce mediator, the two sides can often find ways to reach agreements that are beneficial for their children and keep the parties out of court.
A collaborative divorce is an option for couples who are committed to ending their marriage without litigation. This model is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which both sides use specially trained Collaborative attorneys to work cooperatively through their differences.
Each party agrees to be open throughout the process and keep the case out of court.
The Collaborative Divorce process also uses neutral professionals to assist the parties in clarifying financial and child issues in the case. When it comes to making choices that impact the couple’s children, the process may use a child therapist.
The use of this professional can help parents understand their children’s perspective so they can make informed choices about placement and custody. Other professionals can help the parties work through their remaining issues. Ideally, when the case concludes, each person can walk away from the experience feeling that they were heard and mutually respected.