Preparing Children for Divorce in Maryland
There are many reasons why couples decide to divorce. One partner may have been unfaithful. A person could have paid more attention to their job than their spouse. Couples could have simply fallen out of love with one another. Whatever the reason, opting for a divorce may be the best possible option in those circumstances.
It may be difficult for parents to explain why they are getting divorced to their children. The conversation is something that no one really wants to have, but it can’t be avoided. When it’s time to have that discussion, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Divorce is a big adjustment for everyone in the family. This type of change can be especially difficult for younger children, who may not understand why their parents will be living in separate residences. Older children may feel anger or resentment toward one or both parents.
No matter what happens, it’s important to stay consistent. Both parents should sit down with their children to explain the reasons why they have decided to seek a divorce. They should never make a child feel like it’s their fault that their parents’ marriage has failed.
Don’t vilify the other parent.
Divorce can be caused by many different actions. Infidelity, broken promises and falling out of love with one another are some of the common grounds that are given during divorce proceedings. It can be quite easy for partners to quickly become estranged and harbor anger or animosity toward their spouse.
It’s important to not portray your former partner as a villain, even if they were the reason why the marriage is ending. You can’t make yourself the hero in the situation, either. In most cases, both parents ultimately decide to get divorced. One person’s actions (or lack of) typically aren’t to blame for the end of a marriage.
Children usually pay very close attention to their parents’ actions and behaviors. They’re often much more observant than parents realize. That’s why it’s essential to not put yourself on a pedestal or portray the other parent in a negative light. If that happens, they could favor you over your former spouse, which can make things like child visitation difficult. If your children see you as a hero or blame your spouse for the divorce, they may not want to spend time with them or attend mandated visitation sessions with them.
Sit down with your children soon after you’ve decided to get a divorce. You may want to call a family meeting. Make sure that your children understand that both you and your spouse love them and want what’s best for them. Each parent should try to maintain civility at all times, even if they may no longer like their soon-to-be former partner.
Expect some resistance and questions.
Your children will undoubtedly have questions. Be prepared to answer any and all inquiries that they have. You may want to do a little research online about typical questions that children ask about divorce so that you can be prepared.
It’s perfectly natural for children to oppose the idea of divorce. They may be concerned that they’ll be taken away from their friends and family members. You’ll need to work with your spouse to reassure them and confirm that won’t be the case.
You may want to take some time to explain how the child visitation schedule will work. Visitation may happen at a person’s home or a neutral location, such as a community center. Vacation and holiday schedules will also need to be factored in, so that each child and parent knows who will be at what home on what days.
Parents and children should be able to communicate regularly with one another as they are going through the divorce and after it has been granted. A child may want to let their parent know about their progress in school, what they did with friends at a sleepover, and other events that are important in their lives.
When your child calls, answer if you can. If they call during work hours, get back to them as soon as possible. Don’t ignore your child or brush off things that matter to them. Make sure that your children understand that they can always talk to you whenever they want.
You may want to schedule regular check-in times with your children each day. Call them to see how their day went. Ask how they are doing at school. Pay attention to what they share about their classes, friends, pets and anything else that they choose to disclose.
It’s also a good idea to maintain regular communication with your spouse as well. There may be times when a sudden change of plans may necessitate adjustments to the visitation schedule. You can still care for your former partner, even long after the divorce has been finalized. After all, they were a valued presence in your life for many years. They may be a good sounding board if you need to vent about a frustrating coworker or explain to them that your child is acting out, for example.
Consistency is key.
Many behavioral experts and child psychologists agree on the importance of consistency in children’s lives. They need to be accustomed to regular schedules because they help them understand what to expect. Regular schedules can also be very beneficial when they go off to college or start a career in their chosen field.
Your visitation schedules should be very consistent. Each child should know when they will be visited, picked up and dropped off. If you’re going to be late due to inclement weather, having to work late, or other reasons, make sure that your children and former spouse are properly informed. If you can’t make a specific visitation session for a certain reason, you should also communicate that as well and offer a makeup date and time.
Children need good role models in their lives. They look up to parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers and other adults as they grow up. Every child should have someone in their life that can lead them toward a successful life.
You can reassure your child if they have fear or doubt. Listen closely to what they say. Encourage them whenever possible, especially if they are unsure about following their dreams or pursuing a hobby or career that they enjoy. Let them know when they are doing well, and offer friendly advice or support if they are having difficulties with certain things such as a particular school subject.
Many children will feel that their actions or behavior are to blame for their parents’ divorce. This simply isn’t true. You may need to sit down with them to explain the reasons why you and your spouse have chosen to end the marriage. Make sure that they understand they are not to blame in any way, and that the divorce will not stop either one of you from loving or supporting them.
As your child grows older, they take on more understanding and responsibility. Once your child reaches a certain age, they may be able to make decisions as to what parent they prefer to stay with. In the state of Maryland, children who are 16 years of age or older will have their personal preference taken into account by the court. They can also petition the respective local court to have the current child custody agreement changed if needed.
If you have questions or concerns about how divorce will affect your children, we’re here to listen. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Our trained professionals have handled dozens of successful divorce cases. We can help you understand what to expect and represent you in court if you want.
Divorce forever changes the family dynamic. Personal relationships between parents, children, relatives, neighbors, friends and coworkers will never be the same. It can put a physical, mental, emotional and financial strain on many people. Even though divorce can be unpleasant, it may be necessary for that particular chapter to close so that you can improve your life in the very near future.