When you go through a divorce it is such a difficult process that it can cause you to look out only for yourself. Keeping your head above water, so to speak, is a challenge in and of itself. This is not to mention that you may have other people in your life who need your support while the divorce is ongoing. The last thing that you may feel like you can do at this time is to reach out to others and offer them support but the reality is that this is what is being asked of you. When it is your children who need that support you must drop what you are doing and tend to them when and where they need the assistance.
Children will process divorce differently than adults. Think about how you are going through a difficult divorce. The heartache at losing your spouse, the uncertainty about the future, the worry about the divorce itself and its costs and time commitments. These are all valid concerns to have during a divorce case. However, you can also think about how you have a lifetime’s worth of experience to fall back on and maintain some perspective on this entire process. It is not easy, but going through a divorce as an adult is much easier than it is on your children.
Your kids have little to no life experience on which to give them any background or perspective on the case. They may know the word “divorce” but they have no idea what a divorce is other than something that is causing their parents to move away from one another. The next thing they know they are only seeing one parent with any consistency and may not know where you or your spouse are at any one time. The whole situation is a mess, to begin with, and that's before we look at the case without any understanding of how long a divorce takes to complete, what the result is going to look like, or anything like that on a practical level.
This is to say nothing about the challenges that your kids are going to encounter from an emotional perspective. We tend to gloss over these challenges, but they are extremely real and are some of the first issues that your children are likely to encounter throughout the divorce. We know that a divorce is a challenge from a planning and logistical standpoint but there are emotional challenges that we as adults simply look past in favor of other concerns that may be more at the front of our minds. In truth, we may be incapable of helping our children with their emotions because we are ill-equipped to help ourselves with the same situation.
Putting yourself in the mindset of your child is not something that comes easy. I know that with my kids, trying to figure out why they did or said something is hard. We tend to view situations from our perspective because, naturally, that is how we would view them. However, children oftentimes do and say things for reasons that they do not fully understand. Even asking your child to explain how they're feeling or why they said or did something may not get you the response that you were hoping for. On top of that, your children may not be willing to talk to you about the problems that they are experiencing. Teenagers are notorious for being "short" with their parents and not giving detail when the situation would otherwise call for it. Try asking your child how their day was at school if you want to see an example of a teenager not exactly be excited to share with you the details of their life.
Younger children may have an even tougher time explaining or expressing themselves about the divorce. Even though your teenage children may not be excited to share with you their thoughts or concerns, they will most likely understand what a divorce is and what it means to their family on a basic level. However, your younger children may recognize the word "divorce" but will not likely understand what it means for them. When they cannot even begin to process the meaning of a word then their ability to process or control their feelings is even harder to imagine. It is at this stage that we may see children acting out of control to get attention or simply exert some degree of control over a situation that they cannot begin to understand.
Finally, if you are the parent of a very young child, toddler, or infant a divorce is well beyond anything that these little ones will be able to comprehend. We know that it may be hard for you to be able to work through these issues on your own and that is why we want to be able to help you. The attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help. Many of us are parents. I am a parent of four kids. While no two families are exactly alike, we would like to think that the information that we can share with you would be helpful when it comes to creating a plan for how to deal with the consequences of divorce on our children. Do not look the other way when you know something is going on with your children. It is best to meet this issue head-on. Our attorneys want to help you plan for your next steps, so you are not caught flat-footed.
If you have any questions about the material that we have presented in this blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys are not just experienced family law practitioners. We like to think of ourselves as lawyers with the heart of a teacher. We want to prepare you for a divorce and will endeavor to help you look for solutions to problems. We don't just file your case and leave you to the wolves. We walk with you no matter what the circumstances are that come up during your case. For a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys please contact us today.
The immediate impacts of a divorce
When you consider what a divorce can do to a child in the immediate sense there are many different directions you can go in. Keep in mind that this is part of a divorce that you may be the most overwhelmed during. You have just filed for divorce or are having to respond to a divorce petition filed against you. You may be working to hire an attorney or figure out how you are going to pay for a lawyer. With so much going on you may have very little time to worry at all about the kids and how they are doing. The kids may be going about their normal activities like they always have but you may also be in a position where you are trying to learn as much as you can about your situation while putting the needs of your children on the back burner- at least temporarily.
Divorce is something that many parents work through without much of an issue due to their willingness to confront the problems of the divorce together. It would be unrealistic to expect that your children would not experience some degree of interruption in their daily lives because of the divorce. As such, you and your spouse can work together to calm the waters of your child’s life. For starters, the two of you may want to have a conversation together to agree on a plan on how to address the issues of divorced head-on. We know that many people who go through a divorce with children do so without permanently scarring their kids. How is this possible?
First, parents in your position should focus their attention on the immediate concerns of their child. Making sure the kids know that you are going to be there for them from an emotional perspective can be especially helpful. Some kids legitimately do not know if their parent is going to be available for them if a divorce is happening. The divorce becomes something like a funeral to that child in their mind. Their old life is "dead” and their new life is uncertain and unappealing. However, that does not have to be the reality that your children face as they head into a divorce.
I think that your speaking to your children about the problems in your marriage is not necessary but if you and your co-parent can work together to solve the issues of your case the two of you will be better off. Presenting a united front to your children as far as your efforts to make the divorce process as quick and painless as possible is a good start. The children will want to know that their mom and dad can show them the same sort of love and compassion that you all have always shown them. Children can feel from an emotional perspective just how lacking or present a parent is. The more present you can be for your children the better off everyone will be moving forward.
Presenting a united front from the beginning of your case
You and your spouse can choose a moment to sit down with your children and talk to them about the divorce. Preferably you can decide to have the conversation together with your children. It may not be easy for you to sit down with your co-parent in a setting like that. After all, you all are still going through a tricky divorce and the issues that caused you all to get the divorce are probably fresh in your minds. Still, you all can always work to be the best and most present parents you can by setting aside your differences and pride and showing that you all can be a united front for your children.
What this can look like is up to you and your spouse. You all know the shape of your family now and what will turn out best for you all and your circumstances. There is no set way to approach the conversation other than to say that you should try to do something like this if possible. This usually looks like a situation where you can be direct with the kids, Direct conversation these days usually means turning off your cell phones, putting away any handheld devices, and then turning off the television. Showing your kids that you all are devoted in your attention to the kids is just as important as your getting the kids to pay attention to them.
Next, you should try and create an atmosphere where you are being honest with your children but are not trying to push the blame for the divorce or any of the changes onto your spouse. This may be easier said than done but it is something that you should try. There is no set way to talk to your kids about this, but you can base your conversation on their age and maturity level. The important thing is that you should talk. Above all else, you can emphasize how the divorce is not their fault and how you and your spouse are going to be there for your kids regardless of what happens with the divorce and in the future.
Then, and this may be the toughest part of the process, you should listen to your children and answer questions if they have any. This probably will not be a situation where you can “call it a day” as soon as the family meeting is over. Rather, you can move towards a situation where you have an ongoing line of communication that is open and honest. When you are honest with your children about the divorce, they can be honest with you about their lives as well. This could be a springboard to a more open relationship with your children about subjects that have nothing to do with your divorce.
Preparing the kids for living in two different houses
When children go through a divorce one of the most obvious changes to their lives will be that they will begin to have two homes to live in. You and your spouse are going to stop living in the same home and as a result, you will need to help your child acclimate to living in separate homes from each parent. This will take some getting used to and will require coordination between you and your spouse-maybe more than you would have ever really thought about. For instance, making sure that all the belongings that you have for your children come home with them after a visitation session with their dad is important. Each parent should have belongings for the children at each of their homes. Sharing some items is understandable but you should not have to pack your children a toothbrush or soap, for example, on each visit to the other parent’s home. That makes a visitation session tedious and more work than it ought to be. It also sets you all up to be in a situation where the parents end up getting angry at one another over subjects that otherwise don’t need to be argued about.
Next, you can be sure that the kids are going to take some time to get used to not always being able to sleep in their beds. If you are the parent who the children will be staying with on the weekends there may need to be an adjustment period for learning how to handle this new reality. Giving the kids some leeway and some patience when it comes to learning how to adjust to this new normal is of great importance. They may not immediately take to your new home even if you work very hard at making the new home as hospitable as possible. This should not necessarily be seen as an attack against you. Rather, you should be ready for there to be a period of transition during the initial days of visitation.
Overall, if you can minimize the backhanded comments about your spouse then the children will certainly benefit from this. Many parents find it difficult to keep their opinions about their soon-to-be ex-spouse to themselves. This should not be the situation that you put yourself in when it comes to your children and your spouse. There will be a temporary order against this kind of behavior but that can be hard to police. It is up to you and your co-parent to be vigilant about that kind of behavior.
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 consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.