Going through a divorce can be one of the most heart breaking and stressful things you ever do, no matter how bad the relationship has gotten you can’t help but think back to that time when everything was wonderful and a time when you couldn’t envisage living your life without your other half. You can be as amicable and considerate as you like, you still have to face the fact your life is about to drastically change and things will never be quite the same again. If children are involved then this can make the whole process seem so much worse, you not only have to think about yourself but, theoretically, it’s the children who you should always be thinking about first.
When I went through my divorce I was lucky enough that my eldest child was old enough to talk to me like an adult, she told me what she was feeling and she almost acted like a translator for her little brother who wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on and didn’t know what to ask. You shouldn’t have to rely on your children to help you, you should be the ones to help them so this is what I learn and I hope it helps someone else.
You need to sit down and talk to your children, no matter how old they are. If they’re old enough to understand you they’re old enough to understand something is going on. Maybe there’s another kid in their class at school whose parents got a divorce, so long as it wasn’t too messy and the child got through it in one piece you might want to arrange a play date with them. Inviting that child’s parent round for coffee might also be a great way for you to make a new friend that will be able to offer invaluable advice too.
Above all you have to reassure your child that this is not their fault, that you both still love them just the same and that they still have two parents that will always be there for them. It’s equally important you don’t start to over compensate. You’re not trying to buy their love and they’ll soon cotton on how to guilt you into buying them new stuff. This is something both parents need to be very clear on, it’s unfair if one parent suddenly starting buying them new things regardless of whether they’re just trying to over compensate or whether they’re trying to get the child to take sides.
In most cases one of the parents are going to be moving out, it doesn’t matter if they’re just going across town it might as well be the other side of the world for your children who are used to having both of you around all the time. If they’re going to still be spending a lot of time with the other parent let them get involved in the move, they can pick some toys they want to stay at their second home. If they’re going to have their own second bedroom there let them decorate it with their favorite colors. Use their existing bed sheets so they still smell like home at least for the first visit. If your child is old enough, this might be a great time to let them have their own cell phone so they can keep in touch, something as simple as a text from the missing parent could be enough to cheer them up on a bad day.
Family law is complicated so make sure you’ve done your research, get online and find out what you can. Gather information from reliable and credible sources and if you’re unsure about anything always get your solicitor to help you out. Understanding all the legal jargon isn’t easy and you will get frustrated but it’s imperative you keep this frustration away from the children.
Jessica works for Bennett Griffin divorce solicitors and family law experts
I am currently surveying people whose parents divorced before they reached the age of 18. This confidential, on-line, short survey will hopefully allow those of us who work with kids to better serve children of divorce. If you could take a few seconds to fill it out, we would greatly appreciate it! You can find the survey at