Just like the courts, your focus in your divorce is the best interests of your children. You and your spouse want to make this transition as easy as possible for them so they bounce back from the upheaval without any lasting emotional damage.
Here are some tips for accomplishing that goal.
Do not expose them to conflict
Chances are, unless your children are very young, they have already picked up on the fact that there are issues between you and your spouse. However, you can minimize the trauma by avoiding arguments when they are around. The less conflict you expose them to, the better.
This extends to that moment when you and your spouse sit down with them to explain the divorce. Decide ahead of time what the two of you will say, and leave out details about disagreements and other factors that led to the divorce.
It is also important to avoid using your children as messengers between you and your spouse. If you have trouble speaking directly to each other in a civil way, try emailing, texting or communicating through your attorneys.
Preserve routine wherever possible
When so much is changing, routine and structure give children reassurance. You and your spouse should consider this while creating your parenting schedule, and try to keep routines in both households as similar as possible. For example, you may have a dinner-homework-bedtime routine that is the same no matter where the children are.
It may feel tempting to skip homework, delay bedtime and eat at restaurants frequently to try to please them in the moment. In the long run, forgoing healthy habits will only make children feel worse.
Communicate with them
While you may not gain anything positive by sharing the reasons for the divorce with your children, you still need to answer their questions honestly. This may be the reassurance they need that the divorce is not their fault, as children often feel to blame even after you have told them they are not.
Children also need to know how the divorce will affect their lives directly, such as when they will be with each parent, what their living arrangements will be and whether they will be able to carry on with school, activities and friends as usual.
Above all, listen to your children without judgment, even when they lash out. Whether they express their grief through anger or sadness, you need to acknowledge and validate their feelings. If you feel unable to help them work through their emotions during this time, you may want to consider seeking professional help from a therapist for them.