When parents go through a divorce (or any breakup resulting in a custody battle), children are stuck in the middle. It is an inevitable truth. No matter how committed parents are to keeping things neutral, their kids are the ones who end up with a different way of life after having little or no say in the matter. It is a lot for undeveloped little minds and hearts to endure, and it leaves everyone in the family grasping for understanding, strength, and love.
While you are dealing with all the different pieces of the divorce, you want your kids to know that you love them more than anything. It may be hard for them to see in the moment, especially when tensions run high. So many moms come to me asking how they can convey that love to their kids, and what they can do differently in times of such extreme stress. I embrace their desire to be the best moms they can be, just like I embrace you on your quest to learn how to love your kids through divorce.
Focus On Their Needs and Know Their Wants
Make sure your kids needs are met. During this difficult transition, they should not have to question if their basic needs will be fulfilled. You may even want to do just a little extra by making their favorite foods more often, doing an extra load of laundry so that they have their favorite clothes, and triple checking to make sure their lovey is always in their backpack. Know what they would want to make them feel a little extra comfortable and try to make that happen for them. Especially if your children are very young, there will be plenty of time for them to learn the independence and adjustment that comes from a dual household. During the divorce, give them as much certainty as possible.
Accept Who They Are, How They Change, and How They React
Divorce has a way of bringing out change in kids, especially in the early teen years. They may react to the divorce in ways you do not anticipate. Some kids undergo big changes in personality, including likes and dislikes. Kids of all ages are testing the new landscape of their lives to see what it entails and, in the process, discovering who they want to be. Accept them as they are rather than trying to make them react a certain way.
Do Not Put Them in the Middle, Even if You See No Other Way
Like I said before, kids inevitably end up in the middle of a custody dispute. You should avoid doing anything that highlights that. Using children as messengers, giving them adult responsibilities, or using them to avoid talking to your ex may seem like little things in the moment, but they have a heavy impact. Remember that your kids are just kids, and they should be allowed to remain that way regardless of the change happening in their family. Handle adult matters yourself and with your co-parent.
Get Them Help
Even the most well adjusted kids are dealing with a complete derailment of their worlds when parents split up. Get them help sooner rather than later. Options may include individual counseling or play therapy, support groups for kids in similar circumstances, and having adult mentors outside the family. Try to know your options before starting the divorce so that you have resources to draw on when you need them. When you get the sense to act, find help for your kids sooner rather than later. Especially if you need court approval to get mental health treatment, that can be a lengthy process that you do not want to delay.
Get Yourself Help
You cannot love your kids if you do not love yourself. Make sure you have a strong support system for yourself, including a counselor, therapist, coach, or someone else you can turn to when you need help. Too often, kids become sounding boards for their parents during a divorce. This puts unnecessary weight on your kids and stands in their way of healing. If you have your stuff together, then you are setting them up for the best chances of success.
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