Going Through a Divorce with Kids
Divorce is a fact of life. When I was growing up, it was strange to have a friend whose parents weren't still married. Today, it's strange to find kids who have parents that are still married! While we all know that getting a divorce with kids isn't ideal, it happens - that's just the way that it is.
If you are in the unfortunate position of going through a divorce with kids, there are some things that you can do to lessen the impact on your children. Most parent I know truly want to put their children first, but that can be hard when you are dealing with so many conflicting emotions all at one time. I certainly was not the perfect parent during my divorce and I made lots of mistakes, but I also learned a lot. I hope that my experiences can help someone else who is going through a divorce with kids.
Going through a divorce hurts. It doesn't matter if you were the one who wanted the divorce or not, and it doesnt' matter how miserable your marriage may have been. The actual act of getting a divorce is agony. When you have kids, you don't get to wallow in your pain and agony because you've got to take care of your kids. And chances are that they are feeling quite a bit of pain themselves.
When a relationship falls apart, especially if one party feels they were wronged, it's hard not to talk about it. But the first rule that I learned when going through a divorce was to never speak poorly of my children's father in front of them. That's not easy, trust me! It is, however, extremely important. Even if your ex is a dirty, rotten, blankety-blank, it's important that you don't let your kids know you feel that way.
I think it's also important to try as hard as you possibly can to avoid a custody battle at all costs. Talk about it, go to mediation, do whatever you have to do in order to avoid letting a judge decide what is best for your children. Custody disputes that go to court can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the pain and suffering that they cause can leave permanent scars on the parents and the children involved. Sometimes they can't be avoided, but anything you can to to try to avoid ending up in trial is a good thing.
Be willing to talk to your children if and when they need to talk about their feelings. Let their teachers and other caretakers know about your divorce so that they can be aware of changes in your child's behavior. If you feel your child needs some professional counseling, make it a priority to get it. If you can't afford to pay for a counselor, there are many state programs now that will help. Ask their pediatrician, their principal, the friend of the court, anyone you can think of to give you referrals so you can get your child the help that he or she needs.
Last, think about your child(ren) during every decision that you make. People don't intend to use their children as pawns during a divorce, but many end up doing it, sometimes without even realizing that they are. If you are feeling pain at the loss of your marriage, it's normal that you do things that you may not normally do. If you make it habit to ask yourself, "How will this affect my children?" every time you make a decision regarding your ex-spouse, you'll be able to make decisions with a clearer mind. Put them first, and try to put aside your differences long enough to ask you ex-spouse to do the same.
Going through a divorce with kids isn't easy on anyone; do what you can to protect your children from the pain that they are feeling during this hard time. But don't forget to take care of yourself too. Take time to talk to a trusted friend or a counselor if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed.