The decision to divorce will typically lead to negative experiences for a couple’s children. Children often experience depression and anxiety, as well as reduced self-esteem when their family situation changes abruptly. The potential harm to their mental health and relationships with their parents will often translate to poor performance at school, challenges in social environments in which they previously thrived and behavioral issues. Some parents become so worried about how divorce might harm their children that they put off ending a miserable marriage.
Thankfully, parents don’t have to sacrifice their happiness or mental health for their children. There are ways to minimize how difficult divorce is for children. What can parents do to smooth the transition to a two-household family?
Work cooperatively instead of fighting
The approach that parents take to their divorce and their relationship when they share custody will have a big impact on the overall family dynamic. An adversarial attitude can turn every interaction into a fight. Employing a Cooperative approach to co-parenting where they seek to support each other instead of fighting against each other is also beneficial.
Make the children the priority
If parents keep making their failed relationship with one another the focus of their interactions, they will inevitably have a negative relationship that will affect how their children feel. How the parents feel about one another and how they’ve treated each other isn’t what matters when co-parenting or what defines their current relationship. Parents who view each other as supportive co-parents rather than a disappointing former partner will have an easier time working together.
Keep a positive attitude
It is normal and natural to feel anger, resentment and many other negative emotions about a co-parent after the end of a relationship. The children don’t need to know about those negative feelings. Parents need to ensure they have a healthy place in which they can work through their feelings so that they don’t have to expose their children to them. Avoiding negative talk about the other parent can stave off some of the worst consequences of divorce for the children.
Ease into this new relationship
From having supervision during custody exchanges to using written communication for the first few months when parents share custody, there are many ways for co-parents to adjust to this new relationship while minimizing the risk of conflict. Making the children the focal point of all decisions and behaviors can reduce how difficult a divorce is for the youngest family members.