Divorce is an adult complication, but it affects your whole family. When you take steps to help your children through the process, it makes their social, emotional, financial, and lifestyle adjustments less challenging. When you cooperate and communicate as you work through the process, you lay the groundwork for a smoother coparenting experience.
Just like you and your spouse, children must get used to unfamiliar concepts such as coparenting and living separate lives. They eventually develop ways to deal with the accompanying changes. As you are their parents, your children look to you for communication and support to help make this transition less stressful. Our legal experts have compiled these tips to help children adjust to a divorce, so they can carry on life like normal.
Tip #1. Don’t Keep It a Secret
Communication is critical both during the divorce process and after – instilling clear and regular communication is vital when it comes to tips to help children adjust to a divorce. Children sense when there’s a problem at home, even if you don’t talk about it. That’s often what happens with divorcing parents. When you and your spouse begin planning a formal break-up, it’s the ultimate bad news, and it shows. It makes sense that you want to protect your child by keeping the news a secret for as long as possible.
Experts recommend a more open strategy. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrystresses that divorcing parents must inform their children about their plans. They further recommend:
- Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Both parents should open communication with the children together.
- Share the news, but don’t provide too much information.
- When you discuss your break-up, answer your children’s questions.
- Make sure the children understand that it isn’t their fault.
Tip #2. Infants and Toddlers Need Help Adjusting Too
As you consider how best to discuss your situation with your older children, remember that toddlers and babies need emotional support as well. Human Development and Family Science specialists from the University of Minnesota explain that young children don’t understand the idea of divorce. Still, newborns sense your changing moods and mirror your sadness and worry. The UM article shares these tips for helping babies and toddlers:
- 0 to 8 months: To prevent a growing child from seeing the absent parent as a “stranger,” he or she must visit frequently.
- 8 to 18 months: To minimize your toddler’s potential for separation distress over an absent parent, share child-appropriate information about the absent parent and their activities. If your ex drops out of your young child’s life, find other adults to fill the gap.
- 6 to 12 months: Help your toddler develop secure attachments to both parents, respond to their needs in “…predictable, sensitive and affectionate ways…”
- 18 Months to 3 Years: Maintain consistent daily meals, routines, and activities. Continue existing family traditions and establish new ones. Help children communicate, share their feelings, and follow your rules.
Tip #3. Help Your Kids Stay Connected With Your Ex-Spouse’s Family
Sometimes a break-up changes the whole family dynamic. Children not only deal with disruption at home, they also lose touch with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. In her Psychology Today article, How to Not Divorce Your Spouse’s Family, Ann Gold Buscho Ph.D. discusses how in-laws sometimes distance themselves from their loved one’s ex-spouse as well as the children.
As a soon-to-be ex-spouse, the way you communicate with your ex-in laws and your children may play a role in determining this outcome. Each parent must create a sense of family that encourages children to maintain contact with estranged relatives:
- Don’t insist that your immediate family stay loyal to you. Cutting ties with your ex and your children might be the only way they know to do this.
- Let your family know that it’s okay to stay in touch with your ex. Your ex should have the same conversation with his or her family.
- Don’t talk about your ex-spouse in a way that encourages your family to blame or reject them.
- Choose a legal process that doesn’t promote antagonism.
Tip #4. Creating a Parenting Plan Helps You Focus on Your Child’s Needs
When you choose joint custody and coparenting, Minnesota courts require that you design a parenting plan. It’s a traditional element of a collaborative legal process that encourages divorcing parents to cooperate.
You and your partner design your own parenting plan based on your family’s needs. You can use your preferred terminology as long as you define the terms in your plan. Minnesota’s Domestic Relations Parenting Plan Statute, §518.1705 mandates certain details:
- A child visitation schedule
- A designated parent who has decision-making responsibilities for the child
- A dispute resolution method
- Other issues and matters regarding your child
A parenting plan dictates how the family will co-parent after the court approves the final documents. It must consider the family’s day-to-day activities, custody arrangements, child support, and other financial issues. It forces you and your spouse to spend time cooperating as you consider what’s best for their child.
Tip #5. Consider Divorce Education Classes for You and Your Children
In many cases, divorce and coparenting are new experiences for everyone involved. The Center For Divorce Education has developed classes that support divorcing families by helping them address critical issues. The online lessons provide help through focused educational experiences. The information they offer draws on decades of research and work by parent/child relationship specialist, Donald Archer Gordon, Ph.D.:
- Children Aged 7 to 14: Children In Between: For Kids offers paid online classes to help children going through a divorce. Their goal is to teach children the skills necessary for managing new emotions. The program encourages parents and children to work through the materials together.
- Adults: The CFDE presents adult online classes that have been approved by courts in several states. If a parent requires a completion certificate for a hearing, they receive one immediately when they finish the course.
- Co-Parenting: This 4-hour course helps families meet court mandates for co-parenting education.
- High Conflict Co-Parenting: An 8-hour course for parents when a court requires high-conflict solutions education.
Adjustingto Your New Normal Is a Step By Step Process
When your break-up is inevitable, it’s better for everyone if you take steps that help the process go as smoothly as possible. It doesn’t happen overnight. Just as it takes a long time to determine that divorce is the right decision for your family, recovery takes time as well. It’s never a simple process, but it’s less stressful when you and your ex-spouse commit to creating the best possible lifestyle for your children by considering these helpful tips to help children adjust to a divorce.
CJB Law Is Here to Offer Tips to Help Children Adjust to a Divorce
If you and your spouse are contemplating a divorce, you need a legal representative who works to make the process less antagonistic. At CJB Law, we avoid complications as much as possible. Our attorneys develop results-oriented strategies to protect your family’s legal rights. Connect with us to schedule a free consultation.