Divorce is difficult for everyone in the family. The process can bring out the worst in people, and when separated parents struggle to get along, it can be especially hard on the kids. Younger children may display behaviors such as excessive crying, clinginess, or difficulty with transitions.
It’s important for divorced or separated parents to be able to communicate effectively and resolve conflict. Here are some tips for things to do – and not to do – that are in the best interest of your children when a marriage or relationship is ending.
What to do after a divorce
- Allow your child to love your ex-partner unconditionally without your voice in their head saying all the horrible things your ex has done.
- Try to avoid making major changes following a divorce.
- Talk with your children. Ask them if they are doing OK. Ask if they would like to talk about their feelings. Open the door to communication.
- Take a moment and breathe. Appreciate the significant life changes you and your children have just endured. Give yourself some time to adjust to all the changes.
- Allow your child time to still engage in their regular activities. You may want your visitation time to be 100% spent with you, but your children still need to attend other events that are important to them.
- Get legal advice.
- Be flexible with your child and your ex. Try to cooperate as best you can. Recognize that you and your spouse may have different rules or expectations. Always keep the child’s best interests at the forefront.
- Get professional help for you or your children if you are having a difficult time dealing with the divorce. Divorce takes its toll, and you may have some personal issues to work out. One sign individual counseling may be helpful for you is if you continue to have strong emotional reactions to things your ex-partner does or says.
- Seek divorce co-parenting counseling if you are having problems communicating or resolving conflict. A neutral party can help you work through these issues and develop better communication and conflict resolution skills.
What not to do after a divorce
- Don’t tell you child the whole story about why you are getting a divorce. They don’t need to know all the details. Take the high road.
- Don’t put your children in middle. Asking their opinion on how to handle things it not fair to your child.
- Don’t send messages through your children. If you have something to tell your ex, call, text or email him or her.
- Don’t have conflict in front of your children.
- Avoid calling your ex-partner names or saying other degrading things in front of your children. Your children are half you and half your ex-partner. If you’re bashing your ex, you’re bashing half of your kid.
- Don’t try to remove all your ex’s belongings or any remembrance of your ex from your child’s home or life.
- Don’t introduce a new significant other too soon after the divorce or too soon into the new relationship.
- Don’t make promises or plans with the kids before discussion with your ex.
- Don’t try to one-up your ex. Lavishing your kids with toys or gifts or giving them more freedom than their other parent isn’t the best course of action. Instead, provide them with love and one-on-one attention. Be their parent, not their friend.
Parents who are divorced or separated and want to have an effective co-parenting relationship can learn how to address conflict respectfully and communicate appropriately through a therapy model being offered by The Village Family Service Center in Moorhead. Eben Danielson, M.Ed., LPCC, and Heather Siek, Psy.D., LPCC, are facilitating Co-Parenting Therapy at The Village, 815 37th Ave. S., Moorhead.
The therapy model helps family systems function in healthier ways while keeping the best interest of the child at the forefront. “We know by improving the co-parenting relationship, it ultimately benefits the child most and that is who we always must keep in mind,” Heather says.
In Co-Parenting Therapy, participants meet with both a male and female counselor for an hour a week, typically for 10 sessions. Only the child(ren)’s parents take part; neither kids nor current partners are present. Sessions are self-pay.
“When there is a strong co-parenting relationship with healthy communication, the child’s mental health is better,” Heather says. “The prognosis for the child’s future relationships also is improved.”
For more information or to register for Co-Parenting Therapy, call 701-451-4811.