Children deal with the pain and confusion of divorce in a number of ways, and it's important for you as a parent to give your kids a healthy outlet for expressing their feelings. Whether your child is more vocal and readily expresses his/her feelings, or chooses to be a little more reserved about the news of a divorce, it's up to you to make sure the huge adjustment of parental separation is as comfortable as possible for your kids. Here are a few suggestions that will help:
Keep the relationship between you and your ex as friendly as possible. No matter how old your children may be at the time of your divorce, they'll never want to see their parents fight or hear them say hurtful things to each other. Try your best to be as civil as you possibly can during the divorce, especially in front of your children. Be sure that you and your spouse tell your children about your decision to divorce together, so that it will be obvious that it's a mutual decision, and the children are not to blame. Make sure that you explain to your children that they still have two parents, and that you both love them very much. But, more importantly, show them that you mean what you say by keeping the arguments to a minimum.
Help your children to maintain a connection with both parents. Your kids should understand that they are still welcome in both of your homes, even if one parent has primary custody. If your children are moving with their mother, make sure that you take them to your new place as soon as you can so that they will continue to feel comfortable with you, and vice versa. And, don't try to keep your children away from the other parent. If it's one parent's weekend to visit with the children, make sure that this schedule is adhered to as much as possible. It may take a while for your kids to get used to living in two different homes, and the more willing you are to 'share' your children with the other parent, the more comfortable they'll be.
Encourage your kids to tell you how they feel about the divorce. While your kids may not be ready to talk about the divorce right away, both parents should be available for whenever kids are ready to let you know how they're feeling. In many cases, children begin to act out at home or school to express their frustration or confusion about the divorce, and if you notice this, address is as gently as possible. Reassure your kids that you will listen whenever they're ready to talk, and don't try to censor them. What they say may hurt your feelings at times, but it's essential that your kids know that both parents still love them and value their feelings and opinions.
Don't force your child to choose one parent over the other. Make a point not to speak negatively about your spouse in front of your children. And, don't confide in your children about the divorce. This forces children to take sides. Your kids need to know that the divorce is not their fault, and that they have nothing to do with their parent's separation. It's best to speak to people in your own age group who have been through the same experience. Also, don't try to 'win' your children's affection by spending more money on them than your ex, or not giving them as many rules to follow. Many parents do this to cover the guilt they feel for hurting their children, but this will only confuse things, and may cause your children to resent you when they're older.
Divorce is hurtful and awkward in any family, and making sure that your children know that they come first is the best way to maintain a great parent/child relationship. While all children are affected by divorce, it is still possible to create a healthy family environment in which a child know he or she has two wonderful parents who still make family their top priority.