Once the decision is made to end your marriage, youâ€™ll likely feel a powerful surge of emotions: grief, anger, sadness, maybe even relief. Chances are that your children are feeling just as strongly about the way their lives are about to change.
How a child will react to the news of parental separation will vary, usually according to age. Most children will experience fear, anger, and even a bit of guilt: younger children in particular may blame themselves for the marriage breakdown. Divorce has also been connected with self-esteem issues, depression, and poor academic performance, but such outcomes can be mitigated and even bypassed entirely if you and your spouse focus on supporting your children through the process. Hereâ€™s how.
Break the news gently
How you will tell the children about the divorce will vary according to age and their ability to understand what is happening, but the approach should be the same across all age groups. Ideally, you and your spouse should sit down with them together and gently break the news. Whatever words you decide to use, the message should convey the following:
- They are loved by both parents even though everyone no longer lives under the same roof
- They are not responsible for the breakup
- All of their needs will continue to be met
- The decision to divorce is final
You should also reassure them that their needs will continue to be met and they will continue to spend time with both parents.
Avoid fighting in front of them
Divorces can be as volatile as they are emotionally difficult. Itâ€™s easy to let anger or frustration take control and turn each conversation with your spouse into a shouting match. Do not give in to such impulses in front of the children. They are already angry and sad themselves, and watching their parents fight can aggravate the situation further and cause behavioral and emotional problems later on. By remaining civil with your ex, you can help the children adjust more easily.
Minimize the transitions
While itâ€™s impossible to avoid certain changes, such as living with only one parent instead of two, make an effort to reduce the number of changes your children have to face because of the divorce. Try to keep them going to the same school, so they can remain connected to their friends and teachers. If circumstances dictate that moving is necessary, help them cope by arranging playdates with friends or letting them visit their new school before they actually go.
Enable access to both parents
No matter what drove you and your spouse to divorce, the children are entitled to enjoy a loving and fulfilling relationship with both parents. Unless their safety dictates otherwise, never prevent them from seeing their other parent or use them as a way to punish your ex.
If you have made the decision to divorce in New York, an experienced family law attorney can represent you through the process and help you put together a parenting plan that enables the children to weather the stresses of divorce and adjust to their new lives more easily. Jayson Lutzky is a family law lawyer with over 33 years of experience. He has represented thousands of satisfied clients over the years. If you are have a case in divorceÂ court or are considering ending your marriage through divorce, then set up a consultation with Mr. Lutzky. He offers free in-office consultations and can be reached at 718-329-9500 or through his website at www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com.