Morristown Divorce Lawyers Discuss Talking to Your Kids about Divorce
The process of divorce is difficult for all involved, but the emotional repercussions of separation can be especially hard on children.
Children can’t understand the nuances and complexities of relationships that lead to separation, but that doesn’t mean that they should be kept in the dark during a divorce.
Divorce in New Jersey is as prevalent as it is steady – the Centers for Disease Control reports that divorcees account for 2.6 of every 1000 people in the state. Divorce proceedings are difficult no matter how amicable the separation is – each partner wants to receive abundant quality time with their children and marital assets, and while the proceedings are underway, the adults are likely navigating their own inner turmoil. The difficulties for parents, however, are only one part: often more adversely affected still are the children of the divorcing couple. Often without being aware of it, parents project their emotional and mental distress onto the shoulders of their children. They even put children in the middle of the battle by subtly or directly demanding that their children choose their side over that of their ex.
The following list of recommendations for connecting with your children during a divorce will create spaces for them to understand the basics of the separation, have their feelings and questions heard, and remain in a space of trust that they are still unconditionally loved and supported, no matter what is happening with their parents.
Communicate compassionately and intentionally with your ex about what you’ll tell the kids.
This may seem the most difficult thing to do during a divorce, but it is perhaps the most essential aspect of smoothly navigating the choppy waters of emotional unrest for your child. Your children need to hear a similar version of the story from each partner and not feel it is up to them to decipher what happened, which can sow seeds of fear that they had a part to play in it. Rehearse with your ex what you will tell your children is the reason, and be clear and concise with the information you impart. Offer only age-appropriate information, and do your best to hold your ex in the best light possible when communicating with your child.
With your ex, prepare to come into conversation with your children with specific information they will want to know, but may not know how to ask: like what this will mean for their day-to-day schedule; whether they’ll see both parents; and whether they are still loved. If possible, develop a script of what each parent will say, and practice delivering it.
Remember the power of children’s sensitivity to what is not said.
Children are highly intuitive, and they can read nonverbal cues better than you might think. It is normal for you to be going through your own mental and emotional turmoil and instability at this time, but it is important for you to seek your own support systems such as friends and family, professional therapy, yoga and other aerobic exercises, and meditation in order to not project your unrest on your children. This may confuse them and make them question their part in the separation more than they already will. Be mindful, too, of what you say to other adults in your life that your children may overhear. Keep your communication about your ex and the divorce process as civil as possible, especially while your kids are around.
Let them know what will stay the same.
Children, like all humans, need to feel safe and secure before they can self-actualize. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs stresses the importance of stability as a basic human need. Help your children understand what about their lives won’t change, even walking them through a normal week and highlighting all of the routines that will not change, including school, lessons, time with family, etc. Most importantly, remind them that one thing that will absolutely stay the same is how much they are loved by both parents.
Stress that they are loved.
Remember that developmentally, children are egocentric; as such, they will receive all information from a self-centered lens. As such, it is important to stress to your children that the separation was not their fault. Let them know that the reasons for the separation were because of adult issues that you tried to resolve, but that in the end, you recognized that you would be able to get along better if you weren’t physically together anymore. Repeat, repeat, and repeat to your children that your choice to not live with your ex anymore doesn’t mean that they are any less loved than before. Be clear and amply expressive how much they are loved, and that you will always be there for them – that you are not leaving them.
Consult Our Morristown Divorce and Parenting Attorneys Today
At The Law Offices of Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping parents in Florham Park, Tewksbury, Randolph, Morristown, across Morris County or the surrounding areas in all family law matters, including divorce mediation and child custody agreements.
Our unique approach focuses on finding solutions that help stabilize the transition of families involved, rather than over-litigating matters and creating an adverse environment that doesn’t support the long-term wellness of all adults and children involved.
To speak with our firm today in a comprehensive and confidential case assessment regarding your divorce, please check the online form or through our Morristown offices by dialing (973) 718-7705 today.