The Best Way to Help the Kids is to Stay Connected
There’s no doubt that going through a divorce takes your time, attention and energy. It can be a very confusing and distracting time for you and your soon-to-be-ex. Your kids can pick up on that. Family instability can lead to behavioral problems in children as well as insecurity and a decreased desire to socialize. We know you’re dealing with a lot, but it’s critical that you stay connected with your little ones to help them through this major, unwanted change.
Ideas on How to Stay Connected
Some things are easier said than done, so here are some simple, practical approaches you can take to help your children feel included, loved and important.
Be open with your kids
Depending on their ages, your kids will probably want to know what’s going on. Talk them through what’s happening now and what it means for them. Communicate openly, answer their questions and help them feel comfortable with this transition. Make sure not to project any negative feelings toward their other parent. You’ll want to work together for your children and show a unified front. This will help tremendously if you will be co-parenting.
Make them feel awesome
Set your kids up for success. Take them bowling with the bumpers, let them color outside the lines, give them simple chores, make sure their homework gets done. Whatever you decide to do with them, be positive, engaged, and present. Kids want your time and attention; otherwise it’s impossible to stay connected in any meaningful way. They want to be with you, learn from you, and get support from you. They want to be able to be themselves. You can make this happen. Dedicate more time to them on a regular basis: quantity and quality.
Be more attentive
You can read all the books you want, but the most important thing is to pay attention to what you’re sensing from them. Your kids will let you know what they need, although it might not be with words. They’ll act out, cling, regress, and/or shut down. Behaviors represent unmet needs. Pay close attention to their behaviors during this huge shift. Stay connected by observing and talking to them. Make yourself available to comfort them and to make them feel safe, secure, loved and heard.
Be the grown-up
Love your kids more than you hate your Ex. Never use the kids as a weapon for spying or getting ammunition against your Ex. This is one time when you must swallow any hard feelings you have toward your Ex and act as a team. Communicate about the kids so you both provide structure, stability and consistent consequences.
Introduce changes gradually
A change in living environment always seems like it happens quickly. It’s even worse if kids have to switch schools. Anything that you can control should be introduced slowly. Keep cooking their favorite foods. Stay in the same play groups or after school activities. Continue the same chores. Maintain any important rituals, whether everyday ones like having dinner together and books before bed or bigger ones like birthday celebrations and other holidays. Kids need as much stability as they can get while going through transitions.
Don’t play the “cool parent”
There’s no way to know if you are the good cop or the bad cop in a shared parenting situation. When it’s your time with them, it’s your job to be both. Don’t overcompensate for your guilt by letting them get away with everything. Keep a structure, maintain consequences, set a firm routine. Kids need structure. Being their friend won’t get you far, although it might get them into some trouble down the line.
Remember that all relationships take work
This probably makes you think of your marriage, but it’s true for all types of relationships. Kids love you because you are their Mom, but if you want to stay connected, you have to continue to work at it. Relationships need communication, love, touch and trust. Don’t forget to hug your kids, be open with them, and make them feel safe and loved.