By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
No one plans on getting divorced.
But when a marriage is having severe conflict or two people are actually going through a divorce, there are many things parents can do to shield the children from adult problems and help them adjust to the changes in their parents’ relationship.
Here are 11 ways to keep your children out of your divorce.
1. Make a pact with your spouse to never fight in front of the children. I’m not talking about the “why don’t you ever put the cap back on the toothpaste” type of conflict. I’m talking about conversations dealing with adultery, addiction, character, spending habits, sex, in-laws and anything else of this caliber. If you don’t, your children will be negatively affected.
2. Make an appointment to fight – away from eyesight and earshot of your children. One couple I know used to hire a sitter for their kids, drive behind the local shopping mall and scream it out.
3. Try a marriage counselor and get instruction in learning to fight fairly with your spouse.
4. If you decide to divorce, tell your children together, as a couple. Tell them that it is not their fault and reiterate. Do not tell your children about any of the issues in your marriage. Remember that they love both of you. You are the role models for how your kids will conduct themselves in adulthood. If a child resents his mother or father, it will negatively affect his relationships later in life.
5. Go through counseling with a family counselor – with the children and individually – if possible. If professional counseling is financially not an option, talk to a priest or minister or a person you look up to. One of these options may help you and your children a lot. You can also contact your children’s school. Many schools provide counselors for their students.
6. Never, ever take your children with you to a marriage counseling appointment, mediation appointment, divorce court, or to any other venue that involves your marriage or divorce. There is nothing more heartbreaking for children than sitting in the waiting room of their parents’ mediation appointment, listening to them shriek at each other. Most children are resilient. But no child is that resistant!
7. Tell your children that you love them – often.
8. Barring extenuating circumstances, never prevent your children from engaging in parenting time with their other parent.
9. Never say bad things about your ex in front of the children.
10. Keep life with your children consistent. Make every attempt to work with your ex to keep bedtimes, curfews, homework, responsibility and chores the same at both houses.
11. Never say bad things about your ex in front of the children.
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Here is an excerpt from a mother in Alan J. Hawkins and Tamara A. Fackrell’s book “Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out”:
“My children would cry every time Daddy left the house while we were separating. They would just be sobbing and crying for Daddy, and I would be holding them. And of course I wanted the marriage to work. And it was very difficult. What was difficult was to watch it hurting them and then not being able to do anything about that; to bring this pain into my children’s life and not be able to stop that, because you are the guardian and caretaker of children.”
No parent – anywhere – wants to put their children through this kind of pain.
If divorcing spouses can put their children first and do their level best to shield their children from a bad marriage, divorce and post-divorce period, they will be giving their children an edge in life simply by their conscious decision to respect each other and put their children first in word and in deed.
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.