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When push comes to love: kids and divorce

When Push Comes to Love: Be Realistic About Kids and Divorce

Kids and divorce are rarely separate. In the 1960s, 85% of children lived with both of their parents. By 2020, that number had dropped to 70% due to the rise in divorces.

You should not put off your divorce just because you have children. Yet you should be mindful of how young kids and divorce can affect each other. 

How exactly does divorce impact the well-being of children? How can you create a smooth process during the first weeks of your separation? How can you maintain a relationship with your child through time? 

Answer these questions and you can create a loving and respectful environment for your child. Here is your comprehensive guide. 

How Divorce Affects Children 

There is no way that all children react to divorce. But there are different ways that a separation can affect a child and generate different responses.

Distant Parents 

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale is an inventory of life events that contribute to a person’s stress. If someone experiences enough stressful events, they may suffer from health problems. The scale lists divorce as being the second-most stressful event that an adult can experience. 

The stress of divorce can cause parents to turn inward. They may spend less time around their children, or they may talk to their children less. 

Children learn from their parents and mimic their actions. A child may stop going to school or hanging out with their friends after seeing their parents grow distant. When they are in school, they may not perform their work well. 

Distance from parents can also be stressful. A child may lose their self-esteem because their parents are not affirming them. 

Disruption to the Schedule 

Many children rely on routines in order to function. Doing the same thing in the same ways every day allows them to remain focused on their work. 

A divorce may disrupt a child’s schedule significantly. A parent may be unable to pick a child up because they are at divorce court. They may have left the child’s house, preventing them from playing a significant role in their child’s life. 

A child may struggle with organization and time management. They may not be able to schedule playdates or after-school activities because their parent is not around. In particular, children with autism may feel very stressed after a disruption to their schedule. 

Intense Emotions 

Some children are perceptive. They may overhear or witness their parents fight, even if their parents try to move away from them. They may notice signs that their parents are upset with each other.

Their observations can create extreme emotions. They may become sad or angry watching their parents argue. They may blame themselves for an argument, especially if the argument is about schooling or discipline. 

When a divorce occurs, a child’s emotions may become magnified. But they may also feel a sense of relief. They may understand that the arguments will stop after their parents separate from each other. 

A child may not seem upset at first. But they may become emotional when the reality of the situation sets in. They may have a conversation with a friend about their parents that creates a negative response in them. 

Preconceived Notions of Marriage

Many fairy tales and childrens’ stories talk about love and marriage. Nearly all of them assert that love is eternal. Some of them use marriage to end on a happy note, stating that the characters will live happily ever after. 

Many young children assume that these stories are accurate. When they see their parents argue or hear about a divorce, they may not understand what is going on. They may think that their parents will get back together. 

Some children may feel like their stories lied to them and become upset. They may ask their parents to remove the books from their room. 

Letting Them Know About the Divorce

Even if you think your child knows about your divorce, you should have a conversation with them. It is important that both you and your co-parent are present.

If you are informing them about the divorce for the first time, both of you must be there. You do not want your child to feel like one co-parent cares about them more than the other. 

There are five things that your child should know about your divorce. They should know the reason why you two are separating. You should make it clear that they are not to blame for the separation and that they will not be separated from their parents.

They should understand how the divorce will impact their schedule, especially their school routine. At the same time, both of you should provide emotional support and clarify how you will help them out. You should then talk about how custody will work. 

This means that you should have a good idea of the terms of your divorce. You should have a meeting with your ex to work out the terms and figure out how you will talk with your child. 

Your conversation may be extremely difficult for you or your child. Be prepared to spend a long time talking to them. Answer their questions and take a break if anyone in the room is feeling overwhelmed. 

Maintaining Connections

It is okay for you or your co-parent to find another residence. But both of you should remain involved in your child’s life. 

As you are working on the terms of your divorce, adopt a roughly equal custody schedule. Have your child live with you for a week, and then give your child to your ex for a week. You can make any informal schedule you want, as long as your child is connected with both of you. 

After a judge has approved your terms, you must abide by them. But your child can give their co-parent a phone call or send them an email if they want. There should be multiple ways of connecting to either of you. 

If you are separating from an abusive spouse, you can limit your child’s access to them. You should talk to your family court judge about safety and custody arrangements. 

Teaching Kids About Love

Every parent should have a conversation with their kids about love. You should talk to them about what love is. Give them time to describe their feelings, including any crushes they have had. 

Make sure to break down different kinds of love. Romantic love is distinct from a platonic friendship. Talk about personal boundaries and how someone can express their love without crossing the line. 

Tell your child about how love is not always permanent. You can give them a few reasons for why loving relationships may end, including how people change over time. Try to avoid talking about things like infidelity. 

If your child brings up a story they read about the eternal nature of love, talk about it. Tell them that some couples do remain together while others separate. You can refer them to divorce movies that talk about how couples split apart.

Finding Housing Arrangements 

Both you and your co-parent should figure out your housing arrangements as soon as possible. This will give you a good foundation for custody and communication with your child. 

Your child should know where both of you live, even if only one of you has physical custody. This lets them feel close to both of you and makes it easier to plan family events. 

It is okay if you or your co-parent moves outside of the state. But your child should be able to reach both of you whenever they want to contact you. There should be opportunities for your child to spend time with both of their parents. 

You should also keep in mind your child’s housing needs. Birdnesting will allow your child to stay in one home while you and your co-parent rotate out. This is the least disruptive housing arrangement for your child. 

Creating a Smooth Transition Process

Try to keep things as normal as possible in the weeks after the divorce. Bring your child to school, drop them off, and supervise them while they are doing their homework. Attend their extracurricular activities and schedule playdates for them and their friends.

Send the message to your child that there will be some disruption. But most of their life will remain the same.

You should have the same expectations for chores. You should also discipline your child in the same way you always have. 

You should talk to your child’s teacher, doctor, and other important people in their life. You should tell them about your separation, though you don’t have to go into personal details. This will allow them to make adjustments so your child feels more normal. 

As time goes on, your child will adjust to their new situation. Yet they may feel some grief or sadness on the anniversary of your separation. Be with them on that day and try to have a conversation about their feelings. 

Adjusting to Their Changing Moods

Many people’s feelings about love and marriage change as they develop their own romantic relationships. A child may feel like their parents did not have good reason to separate.

A co-parent may disparage their ex in front of them, affecting their view about the separation. A child may even take sides and refuse visitation with their parent. 

Don’t take visitation refusal too personally. Talk to your child about what is going on and try to go with the flow. 

Never criticize your co-parent in front of your child. If they tell you that your ex has been criticizing you, do not return the favor. Tell them that you love them and figure out a resolution with your ex. 

Spending Holidays

Dealing with divorce and kids is a big problem during the holidays. Your child may feel emotional because the holidays are supposed to be family time. 

Consider a few approaches that can satisfy your child. If you don’t have a birdnesting arrangement, you can adopt a temporary one for the holidays. You can send them to live with another relative while you and your ex cycle out. 

Both of you should spend time with them on the holidays themselves. You can visit them on Christmas morning and then your co-parent can take over for the afternoon.

If the two of you live in different states, you can split up the holidays. One of you can take custody on Christmas while the other takes custody on New Years Day. 

You should otherwise try to create a sense of normalcy. Follow good rules for creating a happy Christmas with separated parents like giving gifts. 

Introducing Partners and Stepkids

You do not have to find a new partner right after you separate from your old one. Take the time you need to process what just happened and recover from it. 

Stepkids and divorce can get very messy. It is okay to pursue a new partner and have a relationship with their children. But you must keep in mind your own child and maintain your ties with them. 

Wait until some time has passed before you introduce your partner and step kids. Have conversations with everyone involved, including your ex. 

Set clear boundaries for everyone involved. Your child and your stepkids should not fight with each other, and you should spend private time with each of them. If you do not want your new partner disciplining your child, you should tell them so.

Your child may be distressed that you are pursuing a new relationship. Do not ignore or become offended by their feelings.

Talk to them about what your new relationship will be like. Tell them that you will maintain a strong bond with them, even as you are spending some time with someone else. 

How to Make Kids and Divorce Go Smoothly 

Kids and divorce can become complicated fast. Many children feel extreme disruption from divorce, in part due to simplistic portrayals of love in stories. 

You should affirm your child from the outset by informing them of the separation. Both you and your co-parent should be involved in their life. 

Teach your child about love and respect for other people. Be prepared for separation refusal and anger over your new relationships. 

You can find tools that will help you with divorce and kids custody. 2houses lets you communicate and organize your life as a co-parent. Register for your account today.

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