You’re headed down the rocky road of divorce and now you have to start out on your own again. On top of that, you’re worried your divorce will scar your children.
Relax, there’s hope! I’m living proof. My parents separated when I was twelve, launching a brutal four-year divorce. Although it still hurts, I know I can withstand any storm. I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a few tips that can help your kids bounce back  and come out stronger.
1. Act Your Age
You’re the adult. Act like one. No matter how old your children are, approach them first to talk about what’s bothering them. Don’t forget that while this is heartbreaking for you, it’s devastating for them too. Put your sadness aside instead of putting it on their shoulders. And if you’ve moved on already, don’t assume your children have. They need to get these feelings out in their own way. Have younger children paint a picture. If your teen doesn’t open up easily, bring up the subject while they’re distracted with a chore. Don’t get mad if what they say hurts you. Their feelings are valid. Once they get them out, you can work on addressing their needs and moving forward. The more honest you are with them about the changes coming, the easier it will be for them to adjust.
Expert’s Take: “A good, basic guideline is to talk to your children about your separation in the same level of detail as you would if you were trying to tell them about sex.”—Robert Emery, Ph.D. The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive
2. Don’t Rock the Boat
Keep your child’s routine as normal as possible. Even if their schedules become a chaotic mess, find one activity they can rely on every day. Share a snack after school or watch your favorite TV show before bed. Divorce creates enormous change. It’s your job to minimize the traumatic impact of this change by protecting stability in their world.
3. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Don’t Say Anything at All
It seems obvious, but it’s easy to take a passive aggressive jab at your ex (or your in-laws). Your kids pick up on these bad vibes. Chances are one of the reasons you broke up in the first place was to end the constant fighting. Spouting negativity only increases their anxiety and makes them feel guilty for still loving both parents. Keep in mind your child got some of their amazing traits from your ex. Badmouthing their parent will make them wonder if they’ve inherited the bad qualities too.
Expert’s Take: “The basic implication is, ‘Don’t stay together for the sake of the children if you’re in a high conflict marriage’ … There is research to show … kids go through a one to two year crisis period when their parents divorce, but they are resilient, and they come back from that divorce.”—Researcher Constance Gager, Montclair State University, Study on conflict in marriages
4. Don’t Play Favorites
It’s crucial you don’t make them choose in any way. Don’t take it personally if they want to spend Christmas with their mother. If you split holidays, make the transition easy. Your child should feel comfortable sharing their day with you, even if it involves your ex. It will only backfire if you guilt them into staying with you. Your negativity will make them uncomfortable and naturally want to be with the other parent.
Check out part two for more online divorce support .
By Morgan Vines for BounceBack.com