Recently I was talking with a colleague about some of the most difficult issues we deal with in the office. One that ranks at the top of the list is helping parents manage a separation without inflicting more harm than necessary on their children. Divorce is, of course, ALWAYS tough on families. It’s tough on the separating couple. It’s tough on the kids. Unfortunately it is also a fact of life for many people today.
There are some things we can do to minimize the trauma for everyone involved. Here are a few suggestions:
1. MOVE SLOWLY! There is nothing to be gained by making heat-of-the-moment decisions – and an awful lot to lose. Take time to process emotions BEFORE you take any action. Consider the impact your actions will have on you and on your children.
2. COMMUNICATE! Talk to each other. Talk to the children. Children assume the worst when left in the dark. Be sure you let them know what to expect in age-appropriate and emotionally sensitive ways. Don’t leave them to figure it out for themselves or they may very well end up telling a therapist somewhere that THEY were the reason you divorced!
3. MANAGE YOUR ANGER! This is a biggie. We do stupid, destructive things when we are angry and this is NOT the time for stupid or destructive! I contributed to a post over at Fight Your Case which talks specifically about how to manage anger during divorce and custody battles. There are some great tips there that you need to read.
4. GET HELP! Do not attempt to go through this period alone. You need support. If children are involved, they need support as well. Join a divorce support group. Get yourself and your children into counseling. This is a volatile time and you all need a safe space to put the emotions.