There can be few things in life as traumatic as a divorce bringing with it a mixture of feelings including anger, betrayal, confusion and uncertainty. It is a time of high emotion and often considerable change as living conditions are altered, finances are affected and normal routines are upset.
Divorce is rarely a painless process but, in all cases, it is vital that throughout the process the interests of any children are protected and there are many things that parents can do to smooth the path for their children as they move through a divorce.
There is often a great deal of anger between the parents during a divorce and the first thing to realize is that trying to pretend that such anger doesn’t exist for the sake of the children is not the solution. The children will be more than aware of the tension between the two of you and you simply insult their intelligence if you try to pretend that it doesn’t exist. This said, it is the manner in which you handle your anger that is most important for the children.
It is vitally important that the children understand that you are angry with each other and not with them and equally important that they understand that they are not the cause of this anger. Children will often feel that they have in some way caused the problem between you and your spouse and it is important that they are told that this is not the case.
With emotions running high it is easy to allow your anger to spill over onto the children and even to find yourself starting to drag the children into arguments between you and your spouse. In some cases you might even be tempted to use the children as bargaining chips or to exact some form of revenge. This should be avoided at all costs.
Whatever disagreements you have with your spouse during your divorce, whether they are about money, living arrangements, child custody or anything else, you should work through these issues between yourselves and away from the children.
This said, if the children are old enough, then their views should certainly be taken into account during any discussion between you and your spouse. It can be extremely helpful to ask the children what they would like to happen. In most cases their first answer will be to say that they would rather you didn’t divorce at all, but you’ll often find that children can be surprisingly realistic and know only too well that, whatever they want, this isn’t going to happen.
Allowing your children to express their feeling and giving them a degree of control over events can be extremely helpful for the children and can also help you to make decisions which will not cause additional problems further down the line.
While it would be nice to think that feelings of anger and hostility are confined to yourself and your spouse during a divorce, your children will also experience a range of negative feelings during a divorce and they too will be angry and often disappointed. These feelings need to be recognized and children need to have an outlet for them. It’s important therefore that they are allowed to express these feelings and that you give them a sympathetic ear and help them to work their way through their emotions.
When your son screams at you saying “I hate you!” it’s very easy to try to calm the situation with a reply such as “you don’t really mean that”, but is this really helpful? At that particular moment he probably does feel that he hates you and, having expressed his feelings, he now needs your help to understand just why he feels that way and how to resolve the issue.
There are many practical issues that need to be resolved during a divorce and in many cases parents tend to focus their attention on these and see these as being the potential cause of damage to the children. In reality however children are remarkably adaptable and resilient and it is rarely the solutions that you agree to the practical problems of life that cause problems in the longer term.
However, the manner in which you resolve the many issues to be addresses will affect the outcome and can cause considerable damage in both the short and long term. Whatever the problems between you and you spouse, these must remain between the two of you and be resolved out of the sight and hearing of the children or, if they can’t be resolved, must be put to one side.
Even if you can no longer live together as husband and wife you must still retain at least a working relationship with one another as parents and must find a way to allow each other to fulfill their role as a parent and give the children the love and support that they need.
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