Going through a divorce with children can be one of the most stressful aspects of a case. Needless to say, every family is different. The way that your children are ultimately impacted by divorce will depend in large part on the circumstances of your family, your relationship with your children, your spouse's relationship with the children, and how each of you approach this subject as a team. Sometimes that is the more difficult part of this whole conversation. Namely, being able to attack a problem with your Co-parent rather than as individuals.
To be sure, many times you will find that the problems you experience with your children regarding divorce R ones that were simply unavoidable. Once the divorce becomes a part of your life there is little that you can do to combat feelings and negative emotions on the part of your child. The best thing that you can do is understand that those impacts can be minimal and can be mitigated if you attempt to coordinate with your Co-parent about how to approach them. Much of the time, you're getting a divorce that impacts your children most acutely in the sense that they believe that they are not in a solid place as far as their relationship with either you or your Co-parent is concerned.
What sort of relationship do you have with your children?
This is a difficult question for you to ask but one that I think will be instructive regarding being able to determine what sort of impact your divorce will have on your kids. I find that households, where the parents and children discussed freely topics in an open and honest environment, tend to do better in a divorce scenario than families that are more closed off and not as communicative. I understand that you may be a great parent and this is not about comparisons. However, I find that the only thing that could potentially mitigate the impact of a divorce on children is communication.
As a result, I recommend assessing the state of your relationship with your children is. It's not as if you will be able to make up for any deficits in communication that you have experienced over the years. Not everyone is a great or even willing communicator with your children. What every family can do is attempt to make improvements in this regard with love and concern as the motivating factors. Again, as your children begin to understand what divorce means they will have questions period it is your job as a parent to answer those questions as well as you can and as honestly as you can.
This is where you need to be able to approach the topic from the perspective of someone who is willing to ask questions but who is not completely engaged in wanting to dominate the conversation. I recommend being able to speak to dear children about the divorce and ask them questions about how they feel period from there, you should allow your child to do more talking and for you to do most of the listening. Sometimes we can feel uncomfortable or awkward in these conversations and we attempt to take up space by inserting our own opinions or words into the void.
Rather, I recommend setting aside any instinct you have to dominate the conversation and instead of working with your child to help him or she understand their feelings and emotions based on the specific circumstances out of your life. While you can only account for your actions or inactions there is a lot to be said for any effort you make on your own to build and maintain a relationship with your children despite the divorce. I am not going to be so bold as to say that divorce can improve your relationship with your children. However, I think that a divorce certainly can change the tenor of your relationship possible for the best in the long run.
Working with your Co-parent to communicate about issues regarding the divorce
I can fully appreciate that your family may not be in a position where you and your spouse are on speaking terms right now. The fact that you are going through a divorce tells me that things could be better at home and that you may be better off attempting to have conversations like this without your parent weighing into what you want to say. While some conversation is almost certainly better than no conversation the reality is that the impact of your words can be amplified when your Co-parent stands behind what you have to say.
Do not underestimate the impact of your child seeing you and your Co-parent set aside your differences to communicate honestly about the reality of an upcoming divorce. If you and your Co-parent are on speaking terms then I would do my best to speak to him or her early and often before the case is filed to coordinate a message to your children. It can be very impactful for your children to be able to see both of their parents work together to do what is best for the kids despite any ongoing problems in the household.
You should attempt to do so even if you all do not agree on every subject under the sun. To be fair, you and your Co-parent never agreed on every subject under the sun when it came to parenting. However, you all were hopefully able to set aside your differences and work towards bettering each of your lives in addition to the children's lives. This is the kind of effort that I am recommending that you attempt to undertake as you work towards establishing an open line to communicate together and with your children.
Being a unified front regarding your divorce and your children can be such an uplifting message for your children to receive. Sitting down with them in person as a family to discuss the topics of your divorce can be an extremely reassuring thing for your kids. This may not seem like much of a gesture to you but it almost assuredly will be to your children. Seeing you and your co-parent physically together can be enough to cause your child to feel more sure of his or her place in the family and that the family will be intact to a large extent even after the divorce. Do not assume that your words are meaningless to your children. Instead, go out of your way to communicate to them at an age-appropriate level along with your Co-parent.
Having age-appropriate discussions with your child about divorce
An important consideration for you as you approach a divorce is how and when to have discussions with your child about the case. Completely ignoring the divorce and trying to avoid ever discussing it with your child about the case is probably not the right path to take. On the other hand, you do not want to overshare information and overwhelm your child in the process. So, I suppose the discussion that we need to have is how to have a balanced perspective on the case as far as keeping your child involved in a matter that is important to their life but also not overwhelming him or her.
Like anything else that we discuss regarding a divorce, every family is different. You know, or hopefully now, what kind of language to use with your children regarding important subjects like this. I would never be able to tell you exactly what to say to your child about the divorce that you are in the process of getting. Some children can be spoken to more directly while others are not capable of processing information in that way. Again, you should consort with your Co-parent on the best way to attack this issue as a team.
For starters, when it comes to younger children I would likely skimp on the details and tell them only information that applies to them daily. Namely, that you and your spouse love your children and that nothing about this case will stop that. Additionally, you should try to do as much listening and answering questions as you do talking. Simply being with your child in a moment like that is important. Even if he or she does not have any questions that would be understandable. After all, young children take more time to process information like that.
Next, if your children are in elementary school-aged then they may have questions about what it means for them in terms of going to school, their friends, and things of that nature. In this way, I would be as direct with the kids as possible in telling them that their lives may change to a certain degree but you and your Co-parent are going to do everything possible to minimize disruption in their lives. You can even give them examples of how Visitation in possession may or may not work in your case so that they can prepare themselves for changes that will be upcoming.
Teenagers are better able to handle and understand issues in a divorce. They have a greater level of maturity they may even have friends whose parents have gotten divorced. With that said, I will caution you in terms of sharing too much information with your teenage children. Teenagers may look in many ways act like mature adults at times but remember they are still children. Overwhelming them with details about the case may lead your children to feel uncomfortable or view circumstances through an incorrect light. Rather, I would recommend doing a great deal of question answering and listening when it comes to talking to your older children about the divorce.
Whatever age your children are, I think there is a lot of benefits in being able to discuss the case together with your Co-parent in person. There is something about physical togetherness during this part of a case that can be impactful and important for your children. Again, simply having your children see you in your Co-parent together can give them some degree of reassurance that their life is not completely about to get turned upside down.
Take advantage of all the time during your divorce with your children
In an age of digital everything, the Internet being everywhere and distractions abounding it can be easy to lose yourself in your thoughts and your little world. You may be transitioning into a new job or even into a new role with your existing company. The divorce will be a possible distraction for you now and into the future. However, I would do everything that you could to make sure that you are physically and mentally present with your kids every opportunity that you have during the divorce.
I often hear from parents that children are obsessed with cell phones. The reality is that your child is not obsessed with the cell phone. Rather, your child is obsessed with you. This is especially true for younger children. When your younger children see you on the phone they too want to be on the phone. My recommendation will be to put the phone away and focus on your children as much as possible when they are with you. There is nothing wrong with having outside interests or being concerned about your divorce. However, there is a time and a place for that and a time and a place for being present with your kids. Ultimately, the transition into a new job or even your divorce will come to a close. However, your relationship with your children is ongoing and much more important.
Another factor to consider when it comes to managing your time with your kids during a divorce is to make sure that you negotiate a Visitation and possession schedule that works well with your schedule. The reality is that all of us have varying degrees of busy times with work and logistical issues getting to and from places. While your life may be a little more sedentary right now due to the pandemic keep in mind that your life may become busier or at least more mobile once the pandemic subsides. Meaning, just because a Visitation arrangement works for you right now does not mean that it will six months or a year into the future.
For example, many parents negotiate Visitation arrangements that are so precise in terms of pick up and drop off times that even a slight traffic jam or delay at work can cause you to miss is scheduled Visitation session. You may be able to get away with tight squeezes as far as your schedule is concerned right now but keep in mind that once your schedule gets back to normal this will be difficult for you. You should consider this before negotiating any kind of Visitation or possession arrangement with your Co-parent.
A word to the wise that it is difficult to be able to renegotiate a custody agreement once it is in place. It is certainly possible for you and your Co-parent to hammer out agreements with one another on the fly based on the needs of your family. However, I would not bank on this happening. Instead, you should act like near 1 opportunity to get it right is at the time of your divorce. Work with your attorney to ensure that you are taking into consideration as many relevant circumstances as possible. Do not assume that you can come back and modify your case in the future if circumstances change.
Part of being able to take advantage of as much time as possible with your children is having a relationship with your Co-parent such that you all can discuss Visitation and possession without becoming overly upset with one another. Part of parenting is being able to manage expectations and deliver information to the other parent which may or may not upset him or her. This much cannot be avoided. However, if you can build up a certain degree of goodwill with your Co-parent then you will be better off.
For example, you can work with your Co-parent to discuss how you prefer to communicate during the week. For some people, email might work better during the workweek. For others text messaging or phone calls are the best option available. Whatever position you find yourself in be sure to communicate readily with your Co-parent. This will go a long way to ensuring the both of you get as much as you can out of the relationship and can benefit your children to the utmost.
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, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and to learn how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.