This is a guest blog from a local divorce lawyer, Laura Monty, who founded Laura Monty Law, LLC in 2015 after relocating with her family from Denver to the Fort Collins area. She tells it like it is in her 9 tips to protect your children during a divorce.
No matter the situation, parents are typically keeping the children in mind with each decision made. Check out the advice she has for people going through a very difficult period in their life and in their children’s life:
How can I protect my children while going through a divorce?
This question is always at the forefront regardless of which stage you may be at in the divorce process. In fact, the fear of hurting your children is a primary reason why many couples stay in unhappy marriages much longer than they want to.
However, there are several concrete steps parents can take to reduce any negative impacts a divorce might have on children and make the transition a less painful one for all involved.
1) Try an Amicable Alternative to Litigation
Choosing divorce mediation or collaborative divorce will not only lessen the cost of your divorce, but it will also be a faster process. Divorce mediation is where a mediator who is a neutral individual (often an attorney) helps you to negotiate with your partner and leads you together into a mutual agreement for settling your case.
Collaborative divorce is a new form of practice in family law where the lawyers for both sides work with their clients to find solutions to their conflicts through cooperation rather than adversarial litigation.
The Take Away:
- These more friendly forms of divorce can often proceed more quickly, meaning that your children will be exposed to less uncertainty about the future over a long period of time.
- It also means that children are exposed to less negativity and overall conflict as you move through the legal process.
When you and your ex make the decision to use either of these more amicable alternatives to standard divorce litigation, you can better focus on co-parenting and develop a mutually agreeable plan that is the most beneficial for your entire family.
2) Don’t Involve Children in Conflicts
One of the hardest adjustments for children to make is splitting their time between two households. There can be excitement over having two bedrooms and two bikes, but often that is overshadowed by the adjustment of no longer having both parents under the same roof.
When you are with your children, focus on having fun together and following a routine similar to what you had before the divorce.
Most importantly, don’t involve your children in fights or disagreements you may be having with your ex.
This behavior places an enormous amount of stress on children and will not benefit either of you in the long-run.
3) Connect with a Family Therapist
Enlisting the support of a licensed family therapist can make a significant difference.
Even if children appear to be handling the divorce well, a trained mental health counselor can help your child to speak openly about their feelings and work through any grief, resentment, or guilt they may not feel comfortable sharing with you.
School counselors are also available for students to speak to and that helps as well.
Many children enjoy having someone special to talk to who is there solely to listen to them, and therapy sessions for young children often include drawing or play activities.
In addition, putting yourself into therapy can help you cope with the roller coaster of emotions you will face during the divorce process. Routinely seeing a counselor can also make it easier for you to avoid the pitfall of unloading your negative feelings on your children.
(If you’re interested in finding a counselor in Northern Colorado, you can find additional information on the Colorado Department of Human Services website.)
4) Practice Self-Care
When you’re feeling stressed, it affects your ability to be a steady parent and provide the support that your children need. Often when we’re going through a rough experience like a divorce, we focus so much on helping our children through the process that we can forget to take care of ourselves, too.
When your children are with your ex, do something fun and relaxing just for yourself. When you re-charge, you’ll have more energy and a positive attitude to bring to yourself and your kids.
5) Be an Effective Communicator
Children often harbor feelings of guilt about divorce, assuming they are the cause of their parents unhappiness. Make it a priority to reinforce to your kids that they are loved by both parents and they are not responsible for the issues that resulted in your marriage ending.
It’s OK to get frustrated and let your emotions show. If you’re upset about the divorce process, your children will likely sense it. Make sure to think carefully about your voice and language when talking to your children about your divorce, and always remind them that the divorce was between you and your ex, and not their fault.
6) Maintain Consistency
When you are going through your separation and divorce, your children need a great deal of stability and consistency to keep their stress levels down. As much as possible, do not alter your discipline and reward expectations and keep daily routines (bedtime, meals, homework…) the same.
If possible, work collaboratively with your ex to develop consistent rules and routines that can be shared between households. If the rules are different in one house than another, make sure to be consistent in your expectations. Some children may find it helpful to have visual reminders – like household rule sheets, calendars, or chore charts – to remind them of the expectations at each specific house.
7) Show Affection
A little extra affection can make a big difference to kids when they are feeling scared or lonely. A few extra hugs can help to make both of you feel better and show how much you love and care.
Make time to do fun, special activities with your children, whether you’re going to a movie, headed to a free event at the Old Town Library, or taking a walk. Even just spending 20 minutes to read a chapter of a book each night can become a cherished routine. Give lots of hugs, and don’t underestimate the power of the words, I love you.
8) Keep Kids Connected
As much as possible, support your children’s extracurricular activities and friendships. Even if the divorce results in moving to a different neighborhood or school, support your children’s social networks by making an effort to have play dates with their old friends, while encouraging new friendships to develop.
Sports, music, and other extracurricular activities can provide a much-needed emotional outlet for children, while allowing them time to engage with their peers. Not sure where to start? Try asking your child’s school or look for local activities on Growing Up Fort Collins.
9) Reassure Kids about Their Future
Parents in the midst of the divorce process are often surprised to learn that children worry about their future well-being – including basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter.
It is important for parents to convey to their children, in positive, age-appropriate language, what the future holds for them including what aspects of their life will stay the same and what may change.
Explain to them that though routines and schedules may be different, both you and your ex will still be in their lives. Children may also have worries about if they will still get to see grandparents and extended family or where the family pet will live. Talking honestly about these situations can help to reassure them about what to expect.
About Laura Monty
Ms. Monty is a skilled litigator who has experience with complex divorce matters, child custody and child support disputes, and post decree enforcement and modification matters.
While Ms. Monty is happy to assist clients with their family law litigation needs, her goal when founding Laura Monty Law, LLC was to provide clients with options outside of traditional litigation with which to resolve their family law disputes.
She is trained in Collaborative Law and Mediation and is an advocate for settling disputes outside of court whenever possible. Additionally, Ms. Monty is proud to offer Unbundled Legal Services to clients who desire some assistance through their family law matter, but do not wish to retain an attorney to represent them during the entire court process.
Ms. Monty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
If you have any questions, visit the Laura Monty Law website for additional resources.