There are many difficult elements of a New Jersey divorce, but breaking it to your kids is undoubtedly one of the hardest. Often, parents are grappling with their own emotions, and feel powerless to help their kids to navigate the pain and confusion.
As longtime Freehold divorce lawyers, it’s been our experience that the transition is easier when both parents take the time to understand what is hardest for kids about divorce – and do their best to minimize those aspects.
Of course, there is a great deal about parental separation that can be emotionally-wrenching for kids. But often the three biggest weights for children to deal with are:
· Loss (or fear of loss) of the parental relationship.
· The presence of conflict.
· Transitions/change (new house, school, caregivers, routines, etc.).
If you can help minimize these stressors on your kids – particularly if you and your partner can work together as a team to do so – the better off they will be.
1.Plan ahead for how you will tell them. How you tell your child about the changes to come are likely to have a significant impact on their experience. Try to write it out ahead of time, plan on keeping it brief and read it out loud to yourself a few times before sitting down with them. The goal is to have enough control of your own emotions that you can be present for theirs.
2.Minimize conflict. Divorce is inevitably emotional, and you may have a lot of negative feelings about your ex. It’s healthy to work through those, but not with your kids. You know what your hot-button personal issues are. Do your best to avoid them around your kids because all it usually does is create unnecessary stress for them.
3. Look for common ground. Differences in opinion, lifestyle, values, etc. may well be what have driven you away from your ex. Yet, it is important to try to look for the things you do have in common - namely your child - and work on trying to do what is best for them. You do not have to like your ex, but for the sake of your child, it’s best to try to cooperate and compromise where you can.
4. Assure your child you are both still present for them. Many people going through a divorce want nothing more than to crawl into their own shell, but you still need to be emotionally present for your child. Find other healthy ways to relieve your stress and heartache so that you can be a sounding board for them. Check in with them. Spend one-on-one time with them. Listen to them. Kids need to feel that their parents are still available to them - physically and emotionally.
5. Set aside your differences for joint functions. You might not live together or like each other very much, but set that aside for things like sports competitions, recitals, graduations, birthdays, holidays, etc. Try to keep it casual and friendly - and focused on your child.
6. Respect your child’s feelings. You have big feelings right now. So does your child. Do not invalidate them. Allow enough space for them to come to you with great sadness or anger or confusion - even if that feels a bit overwhelming, and understanding it could easily shift from day-to-day.
7. Offer ways for your children to maintain some control. Losing the security net of familiarity can cause a child to feel uprooted and rudderless. If you can find small, age-appropriate ways for them to be “in charge” of something (decorating their new room, choosing what’s for dinner, etc.), it can help a great deal. And if you are financially able, continue to keep them enrolled in the same sorts of extracurriculars and sports they were involved in before. Maintaining that sense of routine and additional support could prove invaluable for them.
8. Allow them time to process. If possible, don’t let the announcement occur the same day someone is moving out. Give them some time - days or weeks even - to process what is about to happen. Let them see that even though their parents are not going to be together anymore, they can still put all that aside and care for/be there for them.
If they seem to be really struggling, do not hesitate to look into counseling options to help them work through the things they may not be comfortable talking to you about. Remember, you children did not ask for your divorce and are not the cause of it, so make sure you think about them and what they are going through during this difficult time.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.