Preparing children for the changes and impact of divorce

Any married couple who decides to split up knows the process of a divorce will bring a lot of changes to their lives. For parents, the considerations increase tenfold as you are accountable for not only your life but the lives of the children involved as well. Major life changes such as divorce can burden and potentially harm a child’s mental and emotional stability, so as parents it is important to work to lessen these consequences.

As you and your soon to be former spouse to share the news of a divorce with children, consider some preparations and cautions you can take to ensure their wellbeing during this time. There is no prefixed guideline for every family to follow, but there are some general tips to keep in mind as you prepare for life during and after a divorce.

Do the prep work together

More couples are finding themselves in some form of a shared parenting arrangement after a divorce than in decades past. In Virginia, courts determine custody based on a number of factors, but they all keep children as the centric element. Their wellbeing, safety and primary needs come first and when possible, courts tend to prefer shared parenting as it lessens the potential harm of losing a parental figure.

With that in mind, parents beginning the divorce process can consider this future collaborative dynamic and start things off on that track. While your marriage is ending, your relationship to one another as co-parents is likely never over. Consider working together to share the news of a divorce and provide a unified front during this time.

Formulate your key message

What are your child's likely concerns when they hear news of an impending divorce? Most often children just want to hear reassurance of their everyday lives and how this news will impact their reality. Where will everyone live? Who picks them up from school? When will they see each parent? Consider some of their likely questions and try to address those as you break the news of a divorce.

Both parents can provide insight and input during the initial conversation and throughout the divorce process. Let children know that you are available to talk and remain open to their concerns long after they first hear the news. Children need a resource for stability and consistency, so let them know you are there for those and all their other needs.

Maintain a supportive dialogue

There is no way to know how a person will react to life-changing news, particularly children. No matter their response, let them know you both continue to love and support them throughout the separation and adjustment period.

Getting a divorce and deciding custody is likely not the end of your family’s dynamic; it just changes the roles and day-to-day lifestyle. Parents can help lessen the burdens on children through conscious preparation before, during and after a split.

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