Keeping Life Normal For My Kids
Normal in one family might be very different from normal in another. What your kids are used to and how your specific family handles change in general are key factors in determining what your kids need to maintain a sense of normalcy and security during divorce.
As divorcing parents, you two need to focus on your children, not your own personal views of what is going on. Try not to dump the fact that you may be feeling overwhelmed on the kids. Kids only get to be kids when adults take responsibility for handling the big problems. Keep the kids focused on their own paths and strengthen their sense of security. Kids’ needs are pretty basic: routine meals and sleep schedules; health care for illnesses or injuries; help with homework; rides getting to and from school and outside activities; and lots of hugs and reassurance. Address these needs first, no matter what else you have on your plate.
A great place to start when going through any major change is to figure out the basic family needs and check off the list. Is everyone fed, clothed, rested and showing up for what they must (school, sports, music lessons, etc.)? Is everyone getting enough positive attention? Is anyone getting messages from outside the family that make them feel worried or scared?
How can each parent take responsibility for ensuring that the kids feel supported and secure in their routines?
Focusing on the kids is one way co-parents can ease conflict especially if both of you are truly listening. Take into account the fact that kids will often play parents against each other, even inadvertently. Pay attention to your kids, to what they are saying and what they are doing. Communicate with your spouse, work to provide a united front on basics like schedules, meal and bedtimes, and giving permissions for other activities. Consistency is important.
Often it’s only parents who see their situation as abnormal, and that is usually more a reflection of their own disappointment at the loss of the marriage. Kids talk to other kids and learn about divorce from the world around them. They know more about divorce than parents realize, long before parents start to discuss it with them. For this reason, be alert for questions and concerns that may not in fact be in any way related to your own situation.
Allay fears by talking with your children about what other kids are saying, or what they have seen on TV. This can help remind them that they have you two for parents and that you are the ones who are going to take care of them not someone else.
Maintaining continuity by relating honestly, lovingly, and supportively to your children is normalizing at its best. Normal isn’t about a specific task or a particular schedule as much as it is about you and the other parent staying devoted and attentive to your kids so you can help transition them through a difficult time successfully.