When going through divorce, parents can get swept up in the divorce negotiations and not recognize the impact on their children. It’s important to know how to prioritize your children’s needs as you go through your divorce process. Following are some things to consider:
1. Kids can be ok, even in divorced families. The main predictor in positive outcomes for children is how much conflict there is between parents, not whether or not the parents are divorced. Therefore, if you stay in a marriage for the children but there is conflict and tension in the marriage, you’re not helping your children. On the other hand, if you get out of a high conflict marriage and have two happier parents who aren’t in conflict with each other, your children can be better off.
2. Compromise to lessen conflict with your soon-to-be-ex (STBX). If your STBX isn’t being reasonable and your attorney is telling you to fight for what you deserve, choose your battles wisely. Just because your attorney tells you to fight for something, doesn’t mean you should. You have to weigh the negative consequences on your children before you decide to fight with your STBX. For example, many of my clients have had their attorneys push them to do something that increases the conflict with their STBX. Attorneys may not realize the negative emotional impact of conflict on you or your children. Think about your children as you’re negotiating your agreement and, if possible, lessen the conflict.
3. No matter how your STBX treated you, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a good parent. If your STBX treated you poorly during the marriage, it doesn’t mean that they’ll treat your children the same way. Support your children’s relationship with their other parent as long as their other parent is not abusive. If your child is having difficulty with the relationship, you may be tempted to pile on - saying, “Isn’t he/she horrible?” Instead, encourage your children to talk to their other parent about how they feel.
4. Don’t focus on what’s fair, focus on what’s best for you and your children. There are issues that need to be worked through and it may not feel fair. But you have to compromise on so many things – it rarely feels fair. For example, when you’re going through divorce, it may not feel fair to give 50% custody to a parent who didn’t take on 50% of the childcare before the divorce. However, if both parents are willing to step up, that’s better for your kids. Putting your children’s needs first isn’t always easy but as caring parents it must be the priority.
Focusing on your children’s needs while you’re going through divorce can take a tremendous amount of self control. Make sure that you’re getting support so that you can think clearly and make decisions that put your children first. You’ll feel better and your children will benefit.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.