Divorce can be a complicated process, but children can make it even more complicated. The reality of a family unit that is separating is that adults are as equally answerable to their children as they are to each other.
When we decide to separate formally as parents, we have a responsibility to guide our children through it. A divorce disrupts their lives just as much as it does ours. If children have been accustomed to having both mom and dad around, the absence of one can potentially flip their worlds upside one.
So, what can we do as parents to help our kids deal with divorce?
Communicate with your child
The first thing that parents might get wrong is to not openly tell their children what the situation is. I remember my father telling me he is just taking his daily sweets when I knew good and well that he is ill and needs to religiously take his medication. As parents we tend to underestimate how smart our children are. So, it is important to sit them down and verbally explain what the new setup will be. We should not allow the child to make conclusions on what their fate will be.
Reiterate to them that it is not their fault
Children tend to carry the blame when their parents get divorced. A teacher blogger, Stacia Garland has had numerous conversations with kids going through the transition of divorce. The majority of them blame themselves for their parents separating. It is therefore paramount to have a conversation with them earlier on in the process.
Ask for feedback from your child
After communicating what is about to happen, and that it is not their fault, ask them to express their feelings about the divorce. This will help parents address specific issues. This also depends on whether or not both parents have encouraged open conversations between themselves and their children. If the home has never been an environment for kids to openly express their feelings about things, then it will be a challenge to get any information out of them.
Do not argue in front of your children
Having verbal altercations in front of children does more harm than parents think. This alone can contribute to the guilt children carry after the divorce. If the reason for separation is mostly financial and your children are directly exposed to this conversation, they might feel they are a burden to their parents, and thus they are divorcing.
Post-divorce conversations are also as important. If you are struggling with the transition and having issues with maintenance or the visitation schedule, those arguments should never be had in front of your child. We are putting kids in very difficult positions where they have to start picking sides, choosing who the good and the bad guy is in the situation. This is very unhealthy for the child.
Create a healthy co-parenting relationship
We have all seen how parents fight their battles through their children. Badmouthing the other parent when your child is visiting isn't helpful either. You are just creating further difficulties for your child. It is bad enough that they are hopping between two homes, now they must learn about how selfish and irresponsible the other parent is in their absence.
We need to understand that failed relationships do not equate to failed parenting. With adequate maturity, we can all move past our pain and disappointment and focus on raising loved and loving individuals.
Co-parenting is a challenge. Between setting up visitation schedules and deciding on maintenance arrangements, that can exert some anxiety on any individual. The key is to keep our eyes on the price. The focus should always be prioritizing the wellbeing of our child. We do not want to raise broken kids that do not believe in love and the concept of marriage because their parent's one failed.
Karabo Mokeona is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey's Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa's biggest parenting expo.