In a divorce, it is always wise to put your child's needs ahead of the needs of yourself. There are some out there that will tell you that unless you take care of your own needs, you are not going to be capable of taking care of your child's needs. I would push back against this idea. After having worked with many families who have gone through a divorce, I can tell you that there are very few people that are entirely willing to neglect their own needs and position their case in a way that benefits their children to the greatest extent possible with that said, we all have more room to be generous and conscientious of the needs of the people in our lives. If you are going through a divorce and are apparent, then your child's needs should be at the top of your list.
Among the other realities of divorce is that divorce brings about change, a sometimes dramatic change for families. No matter how well settled you think your family is despite the divorce, I can almost promise you that you will be facing many changes as a result of having gone through your divorce. Some of those changes will be for the better, while some will not. Some of these changes are ones that you can foresee, and some of them will hit you like a ton of bricks out of nowhere. They say that change is inevitable, but sometimes we wish that evolution would slow down to catch up.
The benefit of going through a divorce as an adult is that you have some frame of reference that life will reach a point of normalcy in the future and that you will be able to adjust to the changes that you have undergone in your life. When you think that the changes will not stop, your life will reach a point where things begin to slow down, and you begin to find a rhythm once again. As much as we all crave change in our day-to-day lives, if you were to ask a person going through divorce what they want, I can always promise you that they will tell you that the changes they are experiencing are ones they wish would slow down and allow them to catch their breath.
That is one thing that I will talk to people who are considering a divorce to think about before they pull the trigger. Namely, of all the things that you are fed up within frustrated with about your marriage, family life, and everything in between, how much of those frustrations have to do with you and things you can change, and how much have to do with the fact that you are married to your spouse? If a lot of the changes that you believe are necessary can be done only by you, then you may not need a divorce after all. Indeed, it is now easier to get a divorce than at any time in the history of our country, but the reality is that sometimes the divorce that you seek is not the best for you or your family.
The reality of divorces is that many of the changes we seek are ones that we can provide to our lives ourselves without going through the difficulties and hard links of divorce. However, to come to that conclusion, you must look at yourself with a keen eye and be tough on yourself based on your shortcomings, selfish tendencies, shortsighted critiques of your spouse, and other defects that we all have in our personalities. This may seem like harsh language, and believe me, I am guilty of these traits myself, but to be honest with ourselves, we need to be able to take a somewhat stern look that's where we come up short in our marriages and then work together with their spouses to remedy those problems where we are able.
These are all things that we would like to think that we would do with our kids as well. Your children's artworks are in progress. Indeed, adults are also working in progress, but the clay of our lives is hard compared to our kids. That means that while it is more difficult for an adult to change their life or habits, it is somewhat more accessible for a child to do. No person in your child's life plays a more significant role in that process than you do. This is a responsibility you take a great deal of pride and ownership over in all areas of your child's life. Why wouldn't you take the same perspective when it comes to your divorce?
While we have a better perspective on our lives by being adults, our children do not have that luxury. If you sometimes feel like your child responds in ways too various stimuli that you never would, this is likely due to their immaturity and lack of life experience. Most kids reacted in ways that seemed normal regarding divorce, but it can seem out of character or strange to us. Again, these reactions that we have our base have adult brains in approaching divorce with adult experiences in mind. If you were to look at your divorce through the eyes of your children, then you may have a completely different perspective on matters.
That is what I would like to discuss with you today. Your child has emotional and psychological needs and all times of their life, but those needs become even more acute during a divorce. Depending on the age of your child, those needs may be complicated to manage and overcome. What you need to do as a parent is to focus on those needs and keep them in mind when you are negotiating your way through your divorce case. Everyone reading this blog has different circumstances within their marriage, but if you are a parent, your end goal of the divorce should be similar to the rest of us: to put your children first in all things.
The emotional and psychological needs of your child can vary based on their age.
As anyone who has ever parented a team can tell you, teenagers are in a tough spot as far as their emotions are concerned. When we look at a teenager, we may see a little adult. Physically, teenagers are more developed than children and take on characteristics of adults in their mannerisms, build, and overall how they conduct themselves. Depending on your teen's maturity, you may forget that they are still a child at all. However, underneath the adult-looking demeanor is a brain that is not yet fully developed and needs to be considered when working through a divorce.
While teenagers may be less apt to blame themselves for your divorce, they may be more ready to place the blame of the divorce at the feet of one parent or the other. Like most of us, teenagers are quick to judge and can be more ready to say either mom or dad is at fault for the divorce in place the blame of the breakup of the marriage at that parent's beat. This puts you in a difficult position as a parent because your child likely has a limited view of the circumstances of your case and, on top of that, is not ready or able ugly, too consider the totality of the circumstances that you have gone through.
For teenagers, you need to talk to them on a mature level about the subject matter in the divorce that relates to them. You do not need to necessarily dumb down your language or talk to your teen as a child. Teenagers will appreciate you approaching them as adults but doing so with loving in firm language. No matter how much it may seem like your teen craves their independence deep down, your teenager also understands that they still need discipline and structure from you. You can provide your child with stability and consistency by knowing how the divorce works and what a likely timeline is.
The emotional and psychological needs of school-aged children
If you are the parent of children in school but are not yet teenagers, then these are kids who are more likely to blame themselves for the divorce neither parents. Kids at this age tend to view the world just through the prism of themselves being the center of the universe. This is narcissism that we as adults have, hopefully, learned to set aside, but kids are not able to do at that age. As a result, the breakup of your marriage must somehow be directly tied to them. This puts a lot of strain on relationships and places a great deal of stress on the minds of school-age kids.
You can do a lot of good for your school-age children by assuring them that the breakup of your marriage has nothing to do with your kids. School-age children cannot yet comprehend the issues of a complicated marriage, but you can assure them that each parent still loves your child and that that will not change no matter what happens in the divorce. You can also counsel your child by providing them information about how you will keep them at the center of your life despite anything else that is going on. The final part of this would be to ensure that, during your divorce, you always take the time to stabilize and strengthen relationships by spending time with your school-aged kids.
The emotional and psychological needs of preschool-aged children
finally, do not discount the impact of a divorce on your children who are not yet school age. Just because these kids may not yet be reading does not mean your children cannot read you and your emotions quite well. Likely, these kids don't even know what divorce is in have never even heard the word. With that said, they will quickly pick up on the changes you all are undergoing, most notably a shift regarding mom and dad no longer living together. This can throw your children for a loop, primarily if they are used to mom and dad both being at home.
While there is no substitute for both parents being in the home, you can work with your spouse to be together as frequently as possible and share the parenting load. Detailed talks about the divorce cannot happen with preschool age children but constantly reinforcing your love by physical activity is highly desirable. Your child's emotional and psychological needs who are not yet school age are directly tied to physical acts of love. If you can continue to display affection, physical presence, and passion for your preschool-aged kids, they will be better off no matter what happens in the divorce.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, in via video. Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in serving our community and look forward to discussing our firm's services to you and your family in one of these consultations. Thank you for showing an interest in our blog, and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to post unique content about the world of Texas family law.