Going through a divorce can make you wonder: How is this affecting my kids?
First thing is first. No matter what you do, your kids will be impacted by your divorce, but that does not mean you can’t be intentional about your parenting or leave their destiny up to fate.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of possible things that may be happening with your kiddo will lessen the impact.
A major theme I see in counseling with adults that were children of divorce is that moving around and going back and forth between houses was very hard. This is not saying that kids should not have time at both houses because missing out on time with one parent comes with it’s own set of issues.
Your child is probably pretty confused about the whole situation.
Kids, no matter the age, show up as adults reporting that they were anxious and confused about how to feel about their parents, how their parents felt about them and what it meant to go back and forth. Many parents feel like they’ve talked about it or that the situation should be obvious, but err on the side of caution and have conversations with your kids about these things semi-regularly in an easy, quick way. A big lecture is not needed at all.
Your kiddo is picking up on every little nuance of the interactions or lack of interactions between you and your ex.
You have a little audience. Kids will invariably tell themselves stories about what they observe. Because kids are still very much egocentric- meaning they are the center of the universe, the stories they tell themselves aren’t helpful or accurate and usually start them as being at fault somehow.
Kids often feel as though they are able to manipulate the environment in some way to manage the emotional temperature of the room at pick-up or drop off. They notice bags at the door and feel intense angst over forgetting the smallest items.
Become their positive inner voice that says- “It’s okay, you are right, this is uncomfortable for me BUT this also not yours to manage.”
It is easy to fall into the ho-hum of day to day routines, forgetting that the kids are totally plugged in to every interaction when it comes to the other parent. To complicate things more, your child isn’t going to come out and say, “I am feeling insecure because I think you are really great but so is Dad.” They may not even have the words depending on their developmental level.
It is your job as the parent to plant the tiny seeds of empathy and assurance over time that the kiddo is not in charge, responsible or expected to pick a side or be perfect.
Some divorces run more smoothly than others, but emotions are always high and intentionally parenting your kid through this involves a real ability to grow.
Here are some things you can place into your day to day with your kids to help ease the pressure on them:
“Don’t worry if you forget something, you will get it back soon or we can go grab it.”
“It’s okay to like Daddy/Mom too, I hope you have fun on your visit!”
“Anytime you want to talk to Mom/Dad, it’s okay.”
-Let your child talk about their other parent if they need to.
-Recognize out loud how the divorce is impacting them.
-Depending on the age, as young as 6, you can ask questions and get real answers.
Good Luck! Type in questions or comments if you like!