There is little else more difficult than going through divorce while trying to look after your children and provide them with the caring and secure environment that they need and crave.
It’s easy from time to time to slip and behave in a way that is hurtful to them at that moment and when this happens, guilt is the strong emotion that swiftly ensues.
I’ve put together a short list of what you could keep in mind when going through divorce and making sure that the children are alright:
Check list for Children of Divorce – Providing a Caring Environment
- Unless there are major issues of concern in terms of safety, do help your child keep in regular contact with the other parent. There are several ways that this can be done;g. by phone, Skype, letter, audio and videotapes, email, etc.
- Keep predictable schedules, as this helps create a sense of security for your child. Just as it’s important for you to know what is happening in your own life from one day to the next, so it is for your child.
- When you start a new relationship, avoid introducing your child to him/her too soon. Also avoid exposing your child to your world of dating.
- During transitions and exchanges, it helps if the parent picking up is on time and that the other parent has the child all ready to go, especially if there is a high chance that you will end up in an argument.
- Avoid any arguments during exchanges and transitions, as this will only create a sense of anxiety in your child, especially if this often happens. Try to imagine the amount of anxiety your child has to endure, knowing that you both will be coming face to face soon. Understand that it also takes a while for your child’s anxiety levels to come down again. Make transitions as quick and as smooth as possible.
- Despite how you feel about the other parent, do help your child create and nurture a relationship with her other parent. For instance, help her choose a gift for Fathers’ Day or Mothers’ Day as well as birthdays, and remind them to call Daddy/M
- During transitions and exchanges, you may find that your child wants to carry something from one home to another, e.g. a favourite toy, book or photos. This is very normal, and creates a sense of continuation for them. One divorced couple I know, although not generally on good terms, had a routine of starting to read a story in one home and finishing it in the other to provide continuity.
- I can never say this enough – avoid involving your child in adult matters. These may include detailed reasons for why the divorce happened, financial problems and how Mummy cheated on Daddy with “Uncle Peter” last summer or vice versa with “Auntie Sophie”.
- As far as possible, do try to create similar routines in both homes for such daily and routine activities as mealtimes, bedtimes and homework times.
- Handle rules and discipline in similar ways, as this gives your child a sense of where the boundaries lie and how far they can push them. They should soon realise that they cannot play one parent off against the other. My daughter once asked me to buy her something from the supermarket which she is usually not allowed to have. When I declined, she very politely said, “Don’t worry, M I’ll ask Daddy. He’ll get it for me.” Needless to say, I “reported” this conversation back to her father and she was immediately informed, “it doesn’t work like that here.”
- Just as you help maintain contact with your child’s other parent, remember she also has relationships with members of her extended family, such as grandparents, cousins and step-parents, so do help support these relationships too so that your child doesn’t suffer any unnecessary relationship loss
- For the sake of your child’s development and happiness, be as flexible as possible with your schedules so that she does not miss out on any special family occasions. Allowing children of divorced parents to attend such events only enhances their sense of identity, wellbeing and relationships with extended family members.
- When travelling abroad or away from home for a prolonged period of time, do remember to provide the other parent with your travel itinerary and any other information they may need, regarding your child’s holiday away. Thank goodness for Skype! When my daughters are away, I not only get to speak with them, but I get to see them too, and them me. It’s a super communication tool.
- I know this isn’t always easy, but do try to keep communications with your ex-partner as civil and respectful as possible. If this is not possible, do use other means of communicating so that your child is not exposed to any conflict between the two of you. One lady I know asked a friend of hers to read all emails from her ex-partner. This friend would then relate back what the email said, omitting anything rude or inflammatory, that would upset her friend.