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The breakdown of any significant relationship is said to be one of the most difficult grief events many of us will ever experience. It is therefore no wonder that parenting during your divorce can be one of the most significant challenges you will face.
The challenge of course is that children are also experiencing grief during a relationship breakdown. Depending on their age, temperament and understanding, they will of course deal with your divorce in very different ways. The capacity to parent well when faced with any challenge takes significant courage.
Children do not need to know, and in most cases cannot even understand, the issues that would have led to the end of your marriage. There’s every chance that you don’t know either.
Reassure your children that you both love them and they will continue to be a priority in your life. Seek professional assistance with your own emotions and do not impart your own feelings upon your children.
We are all the biological product of our parents. Children understand better than anyone that they are ‘half’ their mother and ‘half’ their father. By denigrating a child’s mother or father, you are at the same time slighting that child.
This will cause harm to your children, and affect their capacity to grow into an emotionally healthy adult.
There’s something to be said for consistency and routine - human beings by our very nature don’t cope well without these things. This is so important during a separation.
If children living between two households have the benefit of consistency of routine between those homes, they will have the best chance of feeling a sense of security, enabling them to enjoy all of the benefits of being a child.
Try and ensure that between your two households you both have similar bed times and sleep routines, particularly for young children. If your child has a special comfort toy, allow this item to travel between households, or even consider buying more than one.
That way if it’s ever forgotten in one person’s home there’s always a backup. Your children’s personal belongings, particularly their toys, should be able to travel freely between their two homes. This may mean from time to time that things leave your home and don’t come back, but it’s more important that children are able to enjoy their things no matter where they are.
For older children, it is just as important that there are similar routines between homes for things such as school work and extra-curricular activities and where possible similar expectations and rules. Your households do not need to be the same but consistency with routines will promote security and reassure your children when so much is changing in their lives.
Divorce and separation are challenging times for all involved, but it is also an opportunity for a new beginning. As a divorce lawyer, I have met many parents who have spoken to me about how their divorce was an opportunity for them to be better parents, to spend more time with their children and to be more involved in their lives.
During your divorce there will be difficult times, but there will be also many great times, just as there is for any parent raising children. It is one of those times that you will be able to teach your children all about the ups and downs of life, but chances are, they will teach you a few things too.
Wriiten by Clarissa Rayward Director of Brisbane Family Law Centre
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