Children and Divorce – Do’s and Don’ts
“ Who knows what is stuck
What is jammed?
This night won’t close,
This day won’t open” – Gulzar
You’ve decided on a divorce. And yet you wonder – what of my child, my children? Don’t they deserve better?
In an ideal world yes, they do. And then again, so do you. But your relationship with your spouse isn’t working. With the best will in the world you can’t make a go of it. It’s definitely better for your child to have divorced parents who are civil to each other than married parents who are fighting with each other.
Once you separate and divorce and aren’t trapped in the marriage you’ll find that you have the strength and forbearance to be civil and well behaved towards your spouse. And that’s what your children need.
Research shows that if you decide to divorce before your child is two years old, he/she won’t suffer as a child at that age is usually too young to understand whats going on. If you’re having constant squabble with your spouse though the young child will understand that and be affected by it. Older children have varying degrees of trauma, but you can handle all or any of them.
One very significant finding is that the emotional health of the parents has a direct bearing on the child’s well being. “The psychological adjustment of parent is a significant factor in children’s well being” writes Robert Hughes Jr. in The Effects of Divorce on Children. Attend to your emotional needs.
I made this my motto. It may help you too.
If it is to be, it is up to me.
DOS AND DON’Ts
Don’t ask the child to take sides. Telling your child that his father/mother is useless or a loser, badmouthing your spouse or your ex to your child are included in this. Condemning your partner to your child traumatises the child. Children love their mothers and their fathers.
Don’t disparage your child for having traits like your ex/spouse/partner. The child has traits of both parents. It took both of you to make the child and both of you have an equal stake in him/ her. Love your child for the wonderful individual he or she is.
Do support your child’s relationship with the other parent.
Tell the child that both you and your partner love her/him.
Do Co parent. Work out ways and means to share the job. It’s easier when you’re out of the marriage than in it. Believe me, that’s how it worked for me.
Ensure that the child has contact and support with relatives on both sides. Don’t cut the child off from his/her loving aunts, uncles and grandparents because of your personal prejudices.
Tell the child that the divorce is not his/her fault.
Tell them clearly where they will live and go to school and how often they will see the other parent.
Create an atmosphere of openness so that the child can ask questions of either parent about the divorce. Ask questions and be assured of an honest answer.
Pay attention to your child’s feeling while the divorce is actually taking place, and afterwards as well.
It takes effort but it can be done. Many of us have done so successfully and our children are thriving, successful, fulfilled human beings who are sensitive to other people. Divorce is not the end of the world for children if you talk them through it, hold their hands, carry them over the puddles, wipe their tears, sing them to sleep, play ball, solve crosswords, buy them books, walk in the park, share your passions for archery, butterflies, cars or cricket. Be a real person for your children, and be honest.
Remember – IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.