Florida divorce is a complicated process. It is never easy, no matter how beneficial a tool it might be for any given individual. It will certainly take an emotional, mental, and financial toll on both spouses even if they are able to remain on amicable terms with one another. In fact, even if you have known that your marriage is heading for divorce for an extended period of time, it is difficult to adequately prepare for how divorce will affect you. Given how difficult a Florida divorce can be for the spouses involved, it should come as no surprise that it can be just as difficult or worse for children involved in the divorce process. While each family is different and parents know a great deal about the individual personalities of their children, the topic of divorce can still feel strange and uncomfortable. The following tips can help you approach your children about your divorce in a healthy and productive manner
Do Not Tell Your Kids Until You are Certain
If you and your spouse are having difficulty in your marriage, it is best to try and keep your kids out of those problems. If you are considering divorce as a potential solution to issues facing your marriage but have not made a final decision, it is best not to discuss that with your children until you and your spouse are absolutely certain that divorce is unavoidable. Telling your children and then going back and forth between divorce and working on the relationship can be extremely confusing and detrimental to a child’s well-being.
Be Prepared and Unified
Maintaining positive lines of communication with your spouse can be difficult during divorce, especially depending upon the circumstances that have led to the breakdown of the marriage. However, when approaching your children about the divorce it is best to work as closely with your spouse as possible. Approaching the initial discussion with a plan about what you will say and how you will field potential questions can help prevent you and/or your spouse from being caught off-guard. Parents Magazine emphasizes that it can help your children begin to cope with the possibility of divorce by realizing that both parents care deeply for the children and have made the decision to pursue divorce together. They also suggest you address the entire family and then follow up with individual children at an appropriate later time once they have had a chance to digest this difficult news.
Expect Varied Emotions and Acknowledge Them
Anyone with children can attest to the fact that they are complex individuals that experience complex emotions. This is especially true when it comes to something as life-changing as divorce. Even children that are typically well-behaved can have negative, even potentially aggressive emotional reactions to divorce. Additionally, such emotions may remain below the surface for an extended period until children are prepared to let them out. It is important for you to understand the potential reactions your children may have and to be able to acknowledge such emotions appropriately. That does not mean letting your child behave erratically or in a way that is otherwise unacceptable, but it does mean addressing such behavior with the understanding that a child may have other underlying issues related to the divorce that could be causing it.
Allow Your Children to Actively Communicate
Instead of just talking at your children about divorce, make sure that your children can be actively involved in the discussion. For instance, Divorce Magazine suggest allowing your children to make a list of their wants and needs as they relate to the divorce. What does your child reasonably want to see happen during the divorce process? Do they want both parents to continue attending athletic games? Do they hope that they can still spend Christmas with a particular set of relatives? You are the adults in the relationship, and as hard as some accommodations your children may want can be, making sure your children know that you are still fully invested in their wants and needs is an important step in ensuring they can cope with divorce productively. Allowing them to take ownership of their feelings and needs will also help them express those things more positively.
As much as possible, provide stability for your children. This can be done by making sure that you maintain as close to normal of a schedule as possible even if parents have already begun living in separate households. This is a crucial reason why preplanning the divorce process with your spouse is so important when it comes to your children. Knowing when your children will be with which parents and which parents will have responsibility for which activities is extremely important in making sure your children can adapt to their new situation. At the same time, make sure you and the child’s other parent have made arrangements to ensure that a child remains actively involved in activities they have been engaged in. Another important aspect includes consistent custody and visitation schedules that accurately reflect a child’s possible schedule after a finalized divorce. Of course, emergencies will arise that require some flexibility. However, you should attempt to stick to an established schedule as much as possible so as not to disrupt the child’s life more than necessary.
Use a Professional When Necessary
You should approach talking to your children about divorce with the understanding that they may need professional help in dealing with the repercussions. Thankfully, the stigma attached to therapy has slowly started to disappear over the past several decades, but it is important for parents to accept that professional help from a mental health professional may be a necessary component of helping children adapt to divorce. It is not about looking for the easy way out, seeking to medicate your children into acceptance, or passing the buck. Part of parenting is focusing on your child’s best interests, and you may need to accept that doing so could involve enlisting the help of a professional. If you determine it does, then having approached the subject without preconceived notions or negative connotations about mental health will help you support your child’s emotional health and progress.
At the same time, it is important to make sure that you are adequately coping with the divorce process. That may mean that you could need to seek professional help in handling the many emotions that come with divorce so that you can provide a positive and productive role model for your kids. Unless you are as healthy as possible, it will be difficult to ensure that your children are also properly dealing with a divorce.
A Florida family law attorney that focuses their practice on working with clients navigating the Florida divorce process, like Scott J. Stadler, can help you understand more about the divorce process and how to approach it with your kids. While most attorneys are not child psychologists, those that work with clients facing the difficult process of divorce often have a wealth of resources that they are able to provide their clients with when it comes to finding professional help for children and adults. They can also provide resources that can help you navigate other difficult aspects of divorce, like financial planning and securing a new residence. If you have made the difficult decision to pursue divorce in Florida, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more information about what a Florida divorce could mean for you. As difficult as the divorce process can be, utilizing a professional and experienced attorney can help make the process clearer and easier.