Bringing with it a mixture of feelings including anger, betrayal, confusion and uncertainty, there cannot be many things in life as traumatic as a divorce with children caught in the middle. Separating is a time of both high emotion and considerable change as living conditions are altered, incomes are affected and normal routines are upset.
When couples make the decision to split, it is frequently a painful process, but it is vital that the interests of any children are protected throughout and there are a number of things that parents can do to smooth the path for a divorce with children.
Anger in a Divorce With Children
Anger between the parents is common during a divorce and it’s never a good idea to pretend that such anger doesn’t exist for the sake of the children. The children will be only too aware of the tension and you merely insult their intelligence if you try to pretend that it doesn’t exist. Having said this, it is the way in which you handle your anger that is critically important for the children.
The children need to understand that you are angry with each other and not with them and to understand that they are not the cause of your anger. Children will frequently believe that they have caused the problem between you and your spouse in some way and you need to tell them that this is not the case.
With high emotions it is all too easy to allow your anger to spill over onto the children and you might even find that you are starting to draw the children into arguments between you and your spouse. You might even be tempted to employ the children as bargaining chips or to use them to exact some form of revenge. You should avoid this at all costs.
Whether your arguments are about living arrangements, money, custody or anything else, you should work through these problems with your spouse alone and keep them away from the children.
However, as long as the children are old enough, their views need to be taken into account during any discussion between you and your spouse. It can be very helpful to find out what the children what they would like to happen and, while in most cases their initial answer will be that they don’t want you to divorce at all, you’ll often find that they can be surprisingly realistic and know very well that, whatever they want, this isn’t going to happen.
Giving your children the opportunity to express their feelings and providing them with some control over events can be helpful for the children and can also assist you in making decisions which are not going to create further problems at a later date.
Feelings of anger and hostility are not confined to you and your spouse during a divorce with children also experiencing a range of negative feelings including anger and often disappointment. You need to recognize these feelings and provide an outlet for them. Children need to be allowed to express their feelings in a healthy way and you need to give them a sympathetic ear and assist them in working their way through their emotions.
When your daughter tell you that she hates you it’s very easy to brush this off with a reply such as “you don’t really mean that”, but is this helpful? At that moment she probably does indeed feel that she hates you and, having expressed her feelings, she now needs your help so that she can understand just why she feels this way and find a way to resolve the issue.
There are a host of practical issues that have to be sorted out during a divorce and parents often focus their attention on these as being of particular importance for the wellbeing of the children. Children however are extremely adaptable and resilient and it is rarely the decisions you reach about the practical problems of life that cause difficulties in the longer term. In reality it is the way in which you resolve the many issues to be addressed, that will affect the outcome.
Whatever problems you are having with your spouse, they must stay between the two of you and need to be resolved out of the sight of the children or, if you cannot resolve them, they should be put to one side.
Remember that, throughout a divorce with children where you can no longer live together as a married couple, you have to retain at least a working relationship as parents and have to find a way for both you and your former spouse to fulfill your roles as parents and give your children the support, love and guidance they need.