You're divorcing your spouse, not divorcing your kids. Separation is hard to swallow for children that have a loving relationship with both parents, and usually, a divorce leaves emotional damage behind. You may be eager to move on, but for your children, it's important that divorce is handled delicately and with them in mind - stability is crucial.
Many parents make the mistake of thinking divorce is all about them, leaving the kids as an afterthought (or an excuse for more fighting). Use your divorce as an opportunity to show your children how grownups in a relationship can tackle difficult situations maturely and affably. Your child's emotional health should be a mutual priority.
Breaking It To The Kids
One of the worst things you can do is keep your children in the dark about the divorce. Because your separation hugely impacts their life, they should be included in a discussion about their future. Don't blame anyone and especially emphasise that the children aren't at all responsible. Highlight that the grownups haven't been happy together and that a clean break should stop the fighting.
Describe what will happen next - how long they will spend with each parent and tell them that you both love them a lot. This will be a devastating loss to your children, so ask them for their thoughts and input. Allow them to express emotions, whether that's anger, sadness, or confusion. Attempt to address any concerns as a family.
Although you and your partner are splitting up, you're still a parental unit.
If all things be well, share custody. Obviously, your situation will dictate who gets to see the children the most, but if it's possible, try to keep visiting time equal. Don't start arguing throughout the divorce negotiations - come to compromises with the help of mediation.
Whatever you do, don't start making your child feel guilty about spending time with the other parent and don't speak negatively about your ex. Often, children are used as messengers between split couples, but don't make that mistake with your kids. You share children. So keep up civil communication lines and don't emotionally damage your kids by mixing them up in your drama.
It should go without saying that you shouldn't use your children to punish your ex. No matter how bad things are between you and their father or mother, you should not limit or take away their visiting rights. Your children need contact with both their parents. If your ex is behaving badly, it's up to you to be the bigger person.
Parents can be tempted to spoil their kids silly, when it's their turn to look after the children, in order to get one-up on their ex and barter for their kids' affection. Don't do this. It's better for the children to establish a grounded routine, much the same as they had before the divorce.
What Should You Do After The Divorce?
Leave off dating for a while. You're unlikely to be ready and your children certainly won't be prepared for it. Give everyone time to adjust and heal from a traumatic separation. After a divorce, kids can experience drastic feelings of loss akin to death of a loved one.
As soon as you're sure a separation is going to occur, split the finances fairly. Shared monetary funds will only confuse and complicate things further. It's in everyone's best interest to keep the divorce as quick and inexpensive as possible, so try to iron out any issues in a preliminary discussion with your ex, before you go to mediation or go and see a divorce solicitor.
The courts will require you to show where the children will live, when they'll see each parent, and who'll pay child maintenance. They will also want to know how the kids will be brought-up, so do your best to come to an agreement on these issues, to avoid complicating the divorce further. The sooner you can get the separation over with, the sooner the children can begin their healing process.
HuffPost Parents offers a daily dose of personal stories, helpful advice and comedic takes on what it’s like to raise kids today. Learn more