What Your Child Needs from You After a Divorce

Mother and daughter sitting on bench in the park outdoors.
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Take care of yourself. 

A divorcing parent is often a very busy parent. Add to that dealing with the pain everyone is feeling, the legal process of a divorce, and the changes in what were your normal everyday routines and you have stress. Because of this, you need to pay very close attention to your health – both mental and physical.

Get a check up. Ask your doctor for some ways to stay healthy. Simple things like taking a vitamin every day will help.

Talk to a professional about what is going on in your life. Get some coping strategies for your everyday stress along with some for the stress the divorce is causing. The more you take care of you, the better you’ll be able to take care of your children.

Be available.
Whether it's to listen, comfort or take a little of their wrath, be there for your child. Your child needs your attention and your time. This will not come automatically, you will need to find the time for them and make it a regular occurrence. Sit down and have a family meal – every night. Ask them how their day was and listen to the answer. Remember your goodnights and good-mornings. Schedule some one-on-one time with each of your children at least once a month.

Stay consistent in discipline, routines, and relationships.
Try and be a unified front with your ex-spouse. Try to agree on what is allowed, and what isn't. If this cannot be done, set your rules and limits and keep them consistent in your household.

Daily and weekly routines are a godsend if you have them or are able to create them. They save time and reduce stress. Children of divorced couples are often very stressed when their parents are constantly changing where the child will be and when. Set up your child’s routine and keep it consistent.

There are two things to keep in mind when dealing with consistency in relationships and your child. One, your child has relationships with your ex-spouse's family. You’ll need to respect that no matter if your relationship with that person is still viable or not. Two, your child is still your child, not your confidant, messenger, or sounding board. The less you ‘use’ your child at this time, the better they will be able to adjust to the divorce and live normally.

Keep your promises – both expressed and implied.
It’s easy to promise your child the world when you know they are hurting and you are part of the cause of that hurt. Don’t compound the problem by promising them everything under the sun and then not being able to deliver. And if you do make a promise, keep it.

We all live with implied promises and we count on them. In the family, it is implied that our parents will love us forever. This needs to remain constant in their lives. Do not make your children any less important to you because you are not seeing them as often or you cannot get along with your ex-spouse.

The art of letter writing has gone out of style, but could be your saving grace if you learn to pick it up and keep it consistent. Letters are very personal things that will be treasured by your child. Pick up a pen and paper. Write about your day, a good joke you heard, the weather – it doesn’t matter. Just end it in ‘I love you.’

Be the one to model resilience.
How you accept the change in your family dynamic will model, or ‘show’, your child how to accept the change. It's back to 'children learn what they live'. If you are able to get some help, accept the change in your life, and move on to creating something better for yourself, your child will learn how to be resilient with major changes in their life. If you remain bitter towards your ex-spouse, continue having conflicts, and/or ‘use’ your child in any way, that is what you will be teaching them.

Here is a list of what resilient parents would never do, and if you’re doing them, resolve to put a stop to it immediately.

  • They don't talk negatively about their spouse in front of them.
  • They don't use the child as a spy.
  • They don't use the child as a weapon.
  • They don't argue or fight with your spouse while the child is listening.

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