As soon as you break the news to your child about your impending divorce, his or her anxiety level will most likely skyrocket. Acknowledging and addressing your child's anxiety level now may help prevent future therapy bills and your child blaming problems in adulthood on his parents' divorce.
- Don't play the happy family. Forcing your child to put on a smile and pretend nothing is wrong to friends and teachers only puts undue pressure on your child.
- Don't introduce new partners. Any new partners just complicate matters and kids start wondering if the new partner is a new mommy or daddy. Mental-health experts generally agree that parents should wait at least 6 months, or even a year, to introduce new romantic interests to your children. Even at that point, make sure that your relationship is serious. Children may experience the effects of a “mini divorce” once they become attached to your new significant other and it does not work out.
- Don't heap all the blame on your spouse in front of your child. You have friends and family to be on your side. Don't make your child choose sides between you or your partner. Blaming your spouse or speaking badly about your spouse in front of your child causes tremendous stress on them and can lead to severe consequences in a custody dispute.
- Don't discuss child support with your children. That's a matter between you and your ex. If your child asks about money or finances, it is better to reassure them that you and your spouse will always make sure they are provided for and taken care of.
- Don't bash your ex, even if it is years later. Your children will never “outgrow” the divorce. Bad mouthing your ex, even decades later, can cause negative feelings to arise with your children.
- Don't talk to everyone your child knows about the divorce. Teachers, coaches, your child's friends and their parents… not everyone needs to know about your personal life, although it may be helpful if a teacher or coach at least knows that a divorce is in the process.
- Don't threaten suicide or display other reckless and dangerous behavior. It's. Just. Wrong. Putting your children in a position of being your emotional anchor or your counselor is one of the worst things you can do to your child. Remember that you are the adult and your job is to protect your child, not use them as a therapist.
- Don't use manipulation to get time with your kids. When kids have vacation and holiday time off from school, don't manipulate your way into getting more visitation. Compromise. Work with your ex towards a solution. Do not put your children in the middle or use them as a negotiating pawn to get what you want or to punish your ex.
- Don't deny family history. Creating a rosy picture or a negative picture to change the past makes kids second-guess their memories and feelings about family life before the divorce. It may have been just as bad or good as they remember.
- Don’t make your child give testimony. This is about as traumatic an experience for a child, or even an adult, as it can get. Avoid this if at all possible. Find another way to get the testimony you need. Having your child testify in court puts your child in the middle of an adult dispute and may cause your child to feel like they have to choose which parent they want to live with. Don't do this.
Getting Legal Help
The experienced Sacramento Family Law Attorneys at Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP can help you navigate your divorce and child custody issues with respect and compassion. Contact Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP today for knowledgeable and respectful representation. Call us at (916) 455-5200 or email us at info@DivorceWithRespect.com.