Divorce—even if the right choice—can create an emotional roller coaster for you and your family. For parents, there are likely many new conversations and challenges being added to your day-to-day routines. Guilt and worry surrounding the impact of this experience on your children is both to be expected and totally normal. To accompany any goals you may set for yourself in this new life transition, Roanoke, Va.-based family law attorney Nanda Davis offers the following five resolutions you can adopt to better support your children’s needs:
1. I will respect my children’s emotions.
For a child, it’s easy to feel powerless in a divorce. Decisions are being made without your input that have a direct impact on your life. This is why it’s vital to create space for your children to feel and express their emotions without judgment. While some children may feel guilty and think that they inadvertently caused the divorce, others may simply feel disoriented as they adjust to splitting time between two households.
When your children confide in you, let them know their feelings, whether positive or negative, are okay. Resist the urge to “fix” things right away or encourage them to “look at the bright side.” Just as you may need time to process emotions of sadness, anger or confusion, so will your children.
2. I will prioritize my child’s well-being.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children often experience very painful feelings immediately after a divorce, but with a proper support system, can begin to heal after two to three years. Some supportive behaviors to help children cope include:
- When parents have a positive view of the future, it influences their children. They learn to assess situations and avoid catastrophic thought patterns.
- Reduced conflict. Children are less stressed and more resilient when they leave a high-conflict household through a divorce. They also fare better emotionally when there is minimal conflict between co-parents.
- Joint involvement. When parents are safe and stable caregivers, children do better when each individual remains involved in their lives. Simple day-to-day support, such as helping with homework or listening to updates about their day make children feel secure.
- Stable, consistent parenting. Children benefit from boundaries and structure. Co-parents should communicate and offer similar rules across homes.
- Maintain routines. When there is a disruption to normal family life, try to maintain as many of the child’s routines as possible to provide a certain level of consistency.
3. I will find the best path for co-parenting.
In general, having both parents maintain active roles in their lives benefits a child’s well-being. You’ll want to steer clear of common co-parenting mistakes, like using your children as messengers. Instead, focus on behaviors like the following to reduce conflict and help your child feel secure:
- Take the high road. Don’t speak poorly of your ex to your children. If you need to vent, talk to a trusted friend or a therapist.
- Carefully communicate. Keep your co-parent informed about things like healthcare concerns or a child’s extracurricular schedule. Be polite and pleasant during hand-offs, avoiding arguments in front of your child. Most importantly—do not send messages to your spouse through your child. If you don’t want to talk on the phone, send a text or email.
4. I will ask for and accept support from those around me.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Trusted friends and family members can and want to help you—and help your child. If you’re not able to rely on your close circle for support, consider reaching out to your child’s school counselor or teacher to find out if there are therapy or specialized services offered through the district. The more people you bring into your life to support you, the more people you’ll have by your side on the most difficult days.
5. I will take care of my needs, too.
Your children are watching and learning from you as they cope with a difficult situation. If you model good behavior, they’re likely to copy or adapt it in some way. This is why it’s also important you set aside time to regroup and take care of your own needs. Prioritize doing things you enjoy or plan something special to do when the children are away. You can even do something as simple as setting aside 30 minutes each day for stress-relieving activities like exercise or listening to music. The process of building a new life takes time, but as you model how to take care of yourself to your children, they will be better able to address or express their own needs.
New Year’s resolutions for the newly divorced
Typical New Year’s resolutions, like losing weight or maintaining organized closets, often only affect one person. For divorced parents, the resolutions above can make a lasting difference for yourself, your children and your co-parent. If you need guidance regarding your situation or how to talk to your ex about co-parenting, reach out to an expert today to help you navigate these difficult conversations and create a system that benefits your children’s needs.