Divorce is not only stressful and life changing for you, but also for your children. As a parent, you want your children to come out of your divorce as unscathed as possible. How do you ensure that happens?
You are likely more emotional and busier than ever during your divorce process. However, now is the time to stay connected with your children. Spend special time with them doing activities that they enjoy. Check in with their teachers, coaches, and friends to make sure that they are doing okay.
Find Professionals to Support Your Child
If you notice behavior changes in your child, seek help from a professional. Children experiencing divorce may exhibit many different behaviors. They may act out, start hanging with the “wrong crowd,” experiment with drugs and alcohol, become sexually promiscuous, or develop a food addiction. In contrast, some children become withdrawn. They may purposely injure themselves or even attempt suicide. Children who already suffer from mental health issues are especially at risk during a divorce. Seek professional help for your child sooner rather than later if you notice that your child’s behavior or personality has changed since you separated. If you are mediating your divorce, speak with your mediator and spouse about including terms regarding the hiring of a professional counselor for your child.
If you are participating in a collaborative divorce, seek advice from your facilitator as to how to ensure that your children do not suffer during your divorce. A child specialist may be a necessary addition to your collaborative team. She will talk with your children to make sure that they are coping well and that their feelings are being heard. These options are not available if you litigate your divorce.
Don’t Place Your Child in the Middle
Children are resilient. Most children do not suffer significant difficulties when their parents divorce. This is especially true now that we live in a world where the majority of children will experience the divorce of their parents. Many children even thrive once their parents divorce if the marriage was volatile and unhappy. The best way to ensure that your children remain healthy and happy during your divorce is to make sure that they feel loved and connected. Do not disparage their other parent to them, place them in the middle of the arguments, or ask them to choose sides.
Choose a healthy divorce process option like collaboration or mediation over litigation. Remember that the goal is not to destroy your spouse, but instead, to restructure your family in a healthy way.
Adam B. Cordover is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. He is also co-editor and co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association Book on Collaborative Divorce.