Separating and divorce are very hard on the couple involved. What’s harder to quantify is the collateral damage that the couple’s children experience. A quick search of blogs, articles and vlogs from the children of divorced parents demonstrates their feelings about their parents’ marital woes run the spectrum from devastated to happy. If you and your spouse are headed down a road that leads to separation or divorce, how can you mitigate any unpleasantness for your kids?
The Legal Perspective
The first thing to know is how your state defines the best interest of a child. An internet search can help you form a better picture of what that entails. One thing each state attempts to do is encourage a healthy relationship between each parent and the child. Courts do that in a variety of ways. They always need to examine the existing relationships to evaluate if parenting classes and/or counseling are necessary. That counseling can be either for the parent or the child or both. Both the mental and physical health of children and parents factor into a judge’s decision on a child’s best interest. A child’s current level of adjustment to their home, school and community is a factor as well, as is the child’s age and wishes.
Factors that influence a court’s decision about custody are fairly uniform no matter where you live. If one parent is abusive either to the other parent or the child, that’s a big consideration for the judge. Honesty is also important. Neither parent should try to mislead the court, make false reports or attempt to coerce or force the other parent into any agreement. Engaging in any of these behaviors will lead the court to believe that your custody is not in your child’s best interest.
One of the best ways to help your child move forward during and after a divorce is to make sure the lines of communication between you are open. Listening to your child, even when what he says hurts, is key. You must create an environment for your child where she feels safe and encouraged to be open about her feelings. If you don’t know how to do that, or perhaps you’re so damaged from your marriage that you can’t do that, give yourself permission to get professional help with that. Family and/or individual counseling can give you and your child a neutral space with a non-judgmental therapist to help guide you both on your way to healing. Sometimes group therapies can be helpful, too, because you get both the perspective from people who’ve been there and an opportunity to help others with their healing journey.
Your attitude goes a long way towards helping your child navigate separation and divorce. If you’re grumpy or negative about the situation, that will most likely cause your child to be the same way. Trying to look for the positives in your new life, especially looking for them together with your child, will assist you both in making strides towards not just healing from your damage but also thriving in the new place in which you find yourselves.
Being the parent who proactively works for your child’s best interest and healing will help convince the court that your child’s place is with you. If both parents do this, the real winner is the child.