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Robin Graine has been helping parents guide their children through divorce for over 20 years. She has earned the reputation as a practical but heart-centered mediator. Here are Robin’s 7 best tips to help your children cope with divorce.
Tip #1: Kids just want to be kids.
Do all you can to create an environment where your children feel free to just be kids and to not feel that they are being dragged into your adult problems,
Tip #2: Kids want to feel unconditional love from their parents.
Children want to feel loved for who they are, not for what they do. This is called unconditional love and it will make your children smarter, healthier, and tougher.
Tip #3: Kids want to feel that they are being raised by a team that includes both of their parents.
Do what you can to demonstrate this: let your children “overhear” you talking/texting with your ex about something that concerns them; let your kids know that you and your ex “were just talking about …”; keep your ex updated on your children’s school successes and problems so that the kids are clued in that their parents are keeping each other posted.
Tip #4: Kids hate it when their parents fight.
Don’t think that your kids are oblivious to your fights with your ex. They know. Always assume there are little ears listening and remember that your kids’ intuition is probably pretty strong when it comes to their parents.
Tip #5: Kids love it when they see their parents together.
Do you best to find times where you children can see you and your ex together and happy (such as sitting together at a sports event or recital, having conversations at drop-off and pick-up, and having a holiday meal together). It will mean the world to your kids.
Tip #6: Kids don’t like changes at the last minute.
Who does? If you can avoid last minute changes, this will make an already complex living situation easier. If you are a last-minute planner, now is a good time to get better at organizing your time and also being smart about leaving wiggle room for mishaps.
Tip #7: Kids don’t want to be stuck in the middle.
If you always default to what will be best for your children’s emotional well-being, you will never have to worry about them feeling stuck in the middle of your divorce. Watch what you say and get help immediately if you are certain that your ex is poisoning your ability to have a good relationship with your children (mediator, therapist, lawyer, parenting coordinator).
Helping your kids cope with divorce is a lot like parenting in general. Be sensitive to how they are feeling. Don’t force them to talk; but leave plenty of openings for them to share their feelings.
Help your children learn the essential skills of compassion, conflict resolution, and how to deal with difficult people (if that is your situation) by how you navigate your relationship and how you co-parent with your ex. Your children will be grown before you know it, but they will carry their childhood with them for the rest of their lives. Do your best and, if you feel lost, get some professional help. You only have one shot.
Listen to your heart. You probably know what is best. Do that.