When there is conflict and difficulty in your relationship with your spouse it is common that a separation would occur where one of you remains in your home and other leaves to find another place to live. It could be that you all will attempt to attend counseling or therapy to try and salvage your marriage. On the other hand, if one of you believes that the marriage is past the point of saving you may jump immediately into divorce proceedings.
Whether you are attempting to solve the problems that have brought about the separation or have the mindset that a divorce is necessary, your child is caught in the middle of everything. No matter how young your child may be, she can pick up on the anxiety and conflict in the home. Keep in mind that while you are struggling to adjust to a different life with your spouse out of the home, your child will need to make a similar transition. The key difference is that you have decades of life experience to draw upon in order to ease this transition while your child is not able to do so.
While divorce may in some ways benefit your child it is hard to work past the stages where your child is experiencing sadness, guilt, uncertainty and a myriad of other difficult emotions to process. Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will detail how you as a parent can help your child transition into their life as the child of two divorced parents.
The most important pieces of advice to keep in mind before, during and after a divorce
If you want to help your child to understand how to act as an adult in a relationship or on a more basic level to just feel comfortable in your home, you will want to keep the conflict between you and your spouse out of the eyesight and earshot of your child. There are obviously problems in your marital relationship- why else would you be getting a divorce? Your child does not have to witness the conflict, however.
Children do not know how to process conflict. They may not understand why you are fighting but they surely know when the fighting is going on. Raised voices, angered body language and violent actions are something that even babies can notice and get upset by. These formative years are integral to helping your child develop into a confident and self assured young person. Do not stunt their growth in this area by displaying anger and conflict on a daily basis. If you need to have a discussion with your spouse do so after your child is in bed or when you are out of the home and away from your child.
Secondly, I would advise you as a parent to not use your child as a bargaining chip or as an intermediary. These are two fairly separate issues so I’ll address each individually.
If during the divorce (and after) it is determined that your child will live with you do not say things to your spouse like, “If you don’t pay me the rest of the child support, you won’t be able to see your son this weekend.” First of all, you’re likely violating your court order by threatening to withhold your child from your spouse in exchange for their not being current on child support. Secondly, you are harming your child because you are now keeping your child from their other parent. Children do best when they have relationships with both parents.
Many parents after a divorce is over with feel like they have nothing more to say or communicate to their ex-spouse so they end up using their child as an intermediary to relay messages and things of that nature. No matter how you feel about your ex-spouse you need to communicate with him or her directly. Look to your divorce decree on what is allowed as far as communication methods and what is not. For those of you who cannot find the energy or patience to communicate with your ex-spouse over the phone or in person there are electronic mediums like Ourfamilywizard.com that you can use to help bridge the communication gap.
Finally, do your best to not speak poorly of your ex-spouse or their family in front of your child. It is good practice to never engage in this behavior but if that is not possible you will at least need to refrain from this kind of dialogue when you are with your child.
The reasoning for this is pretty obvious. Your child will soak up like a sponge the things that you say and do. Your speaking poorly of your ex-spouse has an effect of alienating your child from your ex-spouse. You can actually poison that relationship pretty well by continuously saying negative things about him or her. The other thing to keep in mind in relation to this subject is that your divorce decree likely bars you from speaking about your ex-spouse in a negative fashion in front of your spouse. So not only are you hurting your child but you are also in violation of a court order by doing so. If you have a problem with your ex-spouse that is your business. Communicate with him or her only when necessary and then in other circumstances just don’t let their name escape your lips.
Your relationship with your ex-spouse is important even after the divorce has been finalized
Just because your names have been signed to your Divorce Decree does not mean that you will never have to deal with your spouse again. As a divorced parent it is still in your child’s best interests for you and your ex-spouse to be able to work together to parent your child. This is commonly referred to as co-parenting. A display of teamwork from both of you, especially in the moths immediately following your divorce, can do a great deal to help your child adjust to their new life.
As we touched on in our previous section, if you express strongly negative opinions about your ex-spouse it is highly likely that your child will adopt those views as their own. Your child is looking for security and consistency in this difficult time. If your words indicate a lack of respect by you of your ex-spouse then it is much easier from your child to feel unwanted, alone and uncertain about their future.
What I have found to be effective for clients is to remember that your child’s priorities are the most important thing in your life and your spouse’s. If you can keep this in mind you will benefit in two ways. First of all, it is your job as a parent to put your child’s interests ahead of your own. Secondly, if you acknowledge that your ex-spouse wants to do just as good a job of parenting your child as you do you will have a common bond that still links you two together even after the divorce is final.
Do not put your child in a position where she does feel like she has to pick a side- you or your ex-spouse. The unconditional love of both their parents is more needed at this juncture of their life than at any other. If you can ease this transition time by working together with your ex-spouse you will have accomplished a great many difficult to achieve goals.
Working with your ex-spouse to transition your child into post divorce life- tomorrow’s blog post
If this subject matter is relevant to your life and your family please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our office offers consultations six days a week to potential clients and they are always free of charge. We proudly represent clients across southeast Texas and it would be an honor to meet with you to discuss the possibility of us doing the same for you and your family. We can answer your questions, discuss the relevant laws in Texas and generally put you at ease regarding whatever family law situation you are facing.