When your marriage has failed, but you have minor children living in the home, one of your priorities will need to be the physical, emotional and mental health of your children. Even though the conflict was between you and your ex, your children were most likely aware of it, and have some emotional wounds that need to be addressed. In addition, you need to be careful not to engage in behaviors that are detrimental to them.
The most important thing you can offer your child in the midst of and after a divorce is your full listening attention. They’ll be scared and uncertain of their future, and will likely have a lot of questions. They may worry that they’ll never see their other parent again. Be honest with them. Don’t sugarcoat the situation or minimize the consequences of the divorce. But also help them understand that you’ll all get through it.
Don’t put your children in a position where they feel forced to take sides. If you still have significant differences with your ex, keep them to yourself. If there are issues you need to discuss with your ex, particularly ones that may be contested and potentially confusing to your children, have those discussions by phone or somewhere and some time when your kids are not present.
Don’t ever assume that your kids are too young to deserve an answer to their questions. Don’t ever tell them “we’ll talk about that more when you are older.” Your kids are trying to figure out what happened and if you don’t tell them, they’ll try to figure it out on their own—and they’ll probably come up with the wrong answer. They may conclude that they were the cause of your divorce.
Don’t ever disparage your ex with your children. It’s okay for them to see that you and your ex don’t agree on everything—that’s a part of life. But avoid statements that demean or belittle their other parent. They love both of you and should never feel wrong for feeling that way.