Divorce is typically about you and the relationship that you have with your spouse. You have hit a rough patch, have grown apart or have experienced some relationship-shattering trauma like infidelity.
It’s easy to get sucked into your personal narrative during a divorce and keep the focus entirely on you and your ex. Unfortunately, your kids will also struggle during a divorce, even though they aren’t the ones going through the end of a marriage. For children, parental divorce is very difficult.
If you can take steps to put your children first, you can reduce how hard it is for them to adjust to your new family situations. There are five practical ways for you to make your children your top priority in the divorce.
Make custody exchanges safe and amicable
Limiting how much you interact with your ex during the divorce can make things easier for everyone. Sharing custody isn’t easy, especially at first. In some cases, while tensions are high, you may want to have a neighbor, friend or family member manage the custody exchange for you.
Even if your ex was late or there are other issues, don’t bring them up in front of the children. Keep the communication focused solely on the kids until later and try to remember that you have an audience.
Be careful what you say in front of your kids
You’re probably angry, hurting or both right now. You need to process those emotions, but your children aren’t the ones to help you do it. They don’t need to be the ones you talk to about the problems you had with your ex or the issues currently going on during the divorce.
Additionally, you shouldn’t talk about these issues with someone you trust if your children are within earshot, whether the discussion takes place in person or on the phone. Wait until your kids are nowhere near before you let yourself unload.
If possible, have everyone talk together about the changes
Working together with your ex as a co-parent is easier if you cooperate every step of the way. Having everyone in the family together to break the news about the divorce is usually the best way to process things.
Work with your ex to present a unified front
Your children are probably going to act out, test boundaries or outright misbehave at some point in response to the divorce. You and your ex need to really talk about the rules and expectations for your children so that everyone in the family is in agreement. When the standards are the same at both houses, the children will have an easier time adjusting.
Try to see things from your children’s perspective when making decisions
Instead of just fighting for what you think is best or what you really want in the divorce, ask yourself what your children want and what is best for them. While you might dream of having Christmas alone with just you and the kids, your kids will probably be happier if both of their parents are there to watch them open their presents on Christmas morning.
Finding compromises like ways to share the holidays can be a great way to let your kids know that they are still the focus of the family unit.