If you're putting your own happiness second for the sake of your children, you might want to read this.
Navigating divorce is a challenge for all parents and avoiding the rocky road is often a reason couples avoid entering the process.
We continually see parents who put their own happiness second to their children by avoiding what can be a very disruptive experience for their offspring. In fact, Christmas is one of the quietest times for people looking for assistance with divorce as we focus on family events and a time of ‘togetherness’.
February by contrast, is our peak time for divorce applications as summer comes to a close, school goes back and parents have time to reflect on their own state of mind.
It is possible to keep it amicable - here are our top five tips for parents embarking on the process.
1. Lay out a parenting plan
A practical way to make your divorce amicable is to work together on a parenting plan that critically puts your kids best interests at heart. Consider where children will live and with whom, how much time they’ll spend with each parent and remember that exposure to both parents is beneficial for kids in most circumstances.
Don't use technology as an emotional pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, or calm down through breathing, talking about ways to solve the problem, and finding other strategies for channeling emotions.
2. Encourage kids to express their emotions
It’s important that parents allow children to express grief, anger and disappointment about the divorce. This shows children that you know them, value them and that you’re there for them. This also helps to relinquish any bitterness they may be holding onto in the future.
It's OK for your kids to be upset. Image: iStock
3. Stay composed
Keeping composed and displaying humility throughout the process will help minimise the negative impacts for children. Avoid speaking negatively about your partner in front of the kids. It’s always better for all involved to settle matters outside of court and to do so, use mediation as a way to guide productive discussions.
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4. Routine will be key
It’s important to establish familiar routines between both parents so children better adjust to new circumstances. If kids are moving between both parents, keep the same bed time, dinner and bath time routine. Establish new fun traditions such as Friday night fish and chips or Saturday morning sports.
5. Look forward
The process can easily become hostile if both parents only look backwards at what led them to a split. If you do one thing to keep the process amicable, look forward to the future where in my experience, happier parents will lead to happier children.
Don't try to fix everything. Give young kids a chance to find their own solutions. When you lovingly acknowledge a child's minor frustrations without immediately rushing in to save her, you teach her self-reliance and resilience.