The most important thing to keep in mind when involving your children in your divorce is that you shouldn’t tell your kids most of the details about the process.
The bare truth is that the legal process of separation or getting a divorce in a contested matter can be harsh and intrusive, filled with hard questions, depositions, and financial disclosures that most kids would not understand.
Much of how kids come out of the process depends on how parents treat their children during the journey. Whether a parent is staying with the kids, or plans to see them through monthly or bi-monthly visitation or parenting, they need to stick to the parenting method that they feel is in their child’s best interests.
As Colorado Springs divorce attorneys, we navigate this process daily with clients, and believe there are important things that every parent should remember that will help most kids get through these difficult times, and even help them to thrive after the divorce is finalized.
Remember that Kids Do Soak Up Everything
Those little asides or hurtful jabs that parents going through a divorce or separation sometimes make don’t just bounce off the walls - kids hear them and remember them. They might be just around a hall corner, or sitting in a bedroom listening through the walls. They have a hard time understanding these small acts of verbal cruelty in relation to what they know, or thought they knew.
The kids probably already know that their parents will not be together as a couple anymore. But these arguments or other unnecessary hostility often create a further misconception in children.
Now, they may think that their parents will never be able to get along at all, even to help the children. That creates in children an even greater level of uncertainty about what will happen after the divorce or separation is finalized.
And very often, kids see parents doing many of the things during a divorce or separation that they have tried so hard to teach their children not to do: don’t yell at people, don’t be rude, if you get angry try to talk it out, don’t throw things, and don’t say rude things to other people you don’t have to say.
When the same people that taught these lessons are now breaking them, kids can start to question what is truly right and wrong.
The Remedy for Helping Your Kids Understand Your Divorce
At the beginning of the process be honest with your kids. Tell them that although the relationship between their parents will change, it will not change how much each parent loves them. This sounds like the oldest cliché in the book, but it’s the one that has the greatest effect.
Also tell them that they should expect the next six months or a year to be difficult, because it will be hard for the parents too. If parents admit to the kids that they may say unkind things to the other parent, or get angry for the wrong reasons, and maybe even yell or holler, kids can more easily understand because it won’t be completely unexpected.
But don’t go overboard. Colorado courts strongly frown on parents who try to insert their children into the process by giving them too much information, or by using inflammatory language around them like: "maybe I wouldn’t have to take your dad to court if he paid his child support on time!”
An Ounce Of Prevention Can be Worth a Pound of Cure
It all really comes down to the idea that children have to be treated a little like adults during the process, but it’s a delicate balance. Things that they see now and questions that they have that go unanswered usually show up somewhere else – in poor grades, acting out in school or with friends, or even worse.
The fact is that kids are tough, and most kids can get through the divorce or separation process. But they need a lot of help from their parents.
As divorce attorneys serving the Colorado Springs area, one of our most important goals is not just to find ways to help parents and their children survive the divorce of separation process. We want to help parents and their children to thrive and be productive in their new lives to the greatest extent possible.
So if your children have questions, don’t go into the process, and don’t tell how the other parent made so many promises, and kept so few. Just know that if kids hear nothing more than the repeated fact that their parents are working their way through important problems, but those problems will be worked out, and they will always love the children, that’s probably a great place to start.