On average, most folks planning for a divorce think about filing for divorce for two or more years prior to actually filing a case. They may be attending therapy, or speaking with friends and family about the possibility of a divorce, and they give themselves time to think about the process and if it is a choice they wish to act on. Because the party filing for divorce has such a long time to think about it prior, they are usually in a place where they are ready and willing to move forward with their lives. They have pictured what their new life will look like and have planned for the future. This gives them time, both mentally and emotionally, to prepare. This is not the case for the party who is unaware that their spouse wishes to divorce, and it’s definitely not the case for the parties’ children, who oftentimes have no idea this is coming.
Related topic: What to Expect When Filing for Divorce
If it takes an adult nearly two or more years to decide to move forward and make peace with their decision, it is definitely going to take their children a substantial amount of time to get used to the idea, cope, and adjust. Children go through the grieving process just as an adult would when facing a divorce, but the adult is often way ahead of them mentally and emotionally. For that reason, it is essential, as the parent planning for a divorce, you will want to also plan for how you will help prepare your kids for divorce.
Top 4 Tips to Help Prepare Your Kids for Divorce
1. Set up the necessary support system.
Children cope well when they see others who are the same as them in similar situations. Perhaps you could make arrangements with families who have been through a divorce for playdates or outings, so that children can be exposed to other children and families who have gone through a divorce. Other children of divorce can be a great outlet for children who are going through it personally. In my school growing up, there was a children of divorce support group. Schools may not have that specifically, but they may have a social worker or other support teams in place to assist children going through this challenging transition. Additionally, there are support groups for children that are not through the school specifically, such as Rainbows for All Children.
Additionally, if your child does not currently see a therapist, now would be a great time to start, even if it is prior to the children knowing a divorce is coming. Ensuring that the child has a health care professional or outlet to discuss concerns, fears and the changing situation is key. It takes a while for children to build a rapport with a therapist and really open up, so even if the divorce has not been made known to your other spouse or the children, engaging a family therapist for the children will help them in the long run.
2. Talk to your spouse before speaking to your children.
It is absolutely critical that both parties are aware of the children being advised of the divorce in order to make the transition a smooth one. Do not tell your children that you are divorcing their other parent without first discussing that this conversation will be had with the other parent. The other parent needs to be on notice regarding what the children will discover so that the other parent can help them cope. Oftentimes the parties cannot agree on when the right time is to tell the children, but parents should try their best to unify in their approach to breaking this news. Telling the children without the other parent being aware of it, or ideally, being present for the conversation, almost always will backfire.
3. Let the children’s teachers, coaches, etc. know what is happening.
Once the children are aware of the divorce, let their teachers, schools, coaches or anyone with who they come into frequent contact on a regular basis know this is happening. Children often exhibit different behavior when they are uncertain or stressed, so the adults who have regular contact with them should be advised of what is going on. They are extra eyes and ears.
4. Manage the adults to best prepare your kids for divorce.
This post is supposed to be centered around preparing children for a divorce. However, preparing and managing the adults around them is equally as important in trying to help children cope with divorce. This means telling your friends and family not to disparage the other parent around the children. Grandma should not talk about what a loser dad is for not working for five years or anything similar. This makes children feel bad. It is inappropriate and puts the children in the center of the conflict. New significant others often also need to be managed regarding expectations and their role. Managing the adults is a huge part of ensuring the minor children are always in a safe, healthy environment during a very turbulent time in their lives.
Seek Advice from a Chicago Divorce Lawyer
If you are facing a divorce in Chicago, our team of Chicago divorce attorneys at Anderson & Boback can help. Divorce is not easy, especially when kids are involved. Seeking legal advice from divorce attorneys with extensive experience handling child custody cases can help you prepare your children for life after divorce. Contact our divorce and family law team today for a free consultation if you are just thinking about divorce or have just been served with divorce papers.