When a couple has decided to end a marriage, there are strong emotions on all sides. However, this situation often is particularly difficult for minor children who do not understand why their family life is changing. There are many things that can be done to minimize the impact of a divorce on a child. The important thing is to keep in mind the standard that the court would apply to masking decisions that affect kids, which is to always act in the best interest of the child.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
It is natural for a child to become angry or sad when his or her parents are going through a divorce. Many times, a child learns about the situation through over-hearing conversations or seeing packed bags. It is important to let any children know what is happening as soon as possible. The manner in which this is communicated will depend on the age and emotional capacity of each child. There is no point in delaying this conversation, so the parents should sit down with the children and let them know what is happening as soon as the decision to file for divorce has been finalized. If possible, both parents should do this together. This should be an open conversation, where the children are encouraged to ask questions. Although all the details may not be worked out at this time, the children should be assured that they are loved and that they still will spend time with both parents.
There may be situations where the best attempts by the parents to help a child understand what is happening and why fail. It may be necessary to engage a professional therapist who can help the child deal with the issue of divorce. Recognizing the signs, such as acting out in the home or at school, falling grades, depression, anxiety, or sleeplessness, and getting assistance may be crucial to ultimate acceptance of the situation by the child.
Maintain a Stable Home Life
A divorce means that things are going to change at home, but it important to take actions that minimize the impact of these changes on the children. If the child can remain in the home where he or she was living prior to the separation, that can be helpful. Having the child keep the same schedule, even if the home changes, also may aid in long-term acceptance of the new situation. If the parents are having the child spend time with each of them, they should consult on things such as meals and bedtime, so there can be consistency in the different homes. In addition to maintaining the routines that a child has to the extent possible, it also is important to set up a schedule for the child to spend time with each parent, even if there has not been a formal agreement about visitation.
During a time of divorce, it is natural to want to ease the child through the process by providing extra attention or letting behaviors go unchecked when they previously would have been addressed. Although sensitivity to the needs of the child is important, it also is necessary to remember that maintaining structure and enforcing rules will benefit everyone over the long-term.
As the emotions of a divorce take over, it may be tempting to engage in some vituperative exchanges with an estranged spouse, but this rarely accomplishes anything positive and often hurts the children. It is unfair to put children in the middle of a disagreement, leading them to believe that they must choose a side. By trying to forge a cooperative relationship with a soon-to-be ex-spouse, it sets up the potential for an effective co-parenting scenario after the divorce has been finalized.
Charlton & Glover Work to Get Their Clients the Right Results
It always is best to minimize the strain that a divorce places on children, but if there is a dispute over support, custody, and/or visitation, it is important to have the right legal representation. If you are contemplating divorce in the Roswell or Alpharetta area, contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Charlton & Glover. Call us at (770) 993-1005 to schedule a free initial consultation.