You’re in a marriage that isn’t working, but you also have kids. So the decision to leave isn’t exactly black and white. Your friends and family are telling you to “stay together for the kids,” but is that really the right call? Should you try to make the marriage work, or will you and the kids be happier if not stuck in a perpetual fighting match?
Well, it depends.
It depends on whether you and your spouse both want to work it out and are willing to make it work day in and day out. But if you’re past the point of it working, and if you both just know in your hearts that divorce is the right choice, then who’s to tell you to stay just because you have children?
There are many ways to look at it, one being that you want to provide a home with two parents who love their children. But is living a marriage void of love the best example to your children? Will that be better or worse than the parents living apart from each other?
Many children have been through their parents’ divorce, and have done just fine. They’ve adjusted. The biggest factor in how they do is how the divorce is handled, and then how the parents treat the children following the divorce. Here are some tips on how to leave a marriage with children.
Discuss the main points with the kids together
To help make the transition smooth, it’s important to have a united front; at this point it may be hard for the two of you to agree, but keep your focus on the kids. What do they need to hear from both of you right now? Tell them that you are getting divorced, but that it doesn’t change anything about your love for them. Talk about where mom and dad will live, and that the kids will always have loving homes to go to. Make sure they know that the divorce has nothing to do with them. Even though this is a heavy topic, try your best to be positive and reassure your children.
Negotiate out of court when possible
You and your soon-to-be-ex spouse may not agree on your marriage relationship, but in order to create a smooth transition for the children, you must set those differences aside. Very calmly and clearly discuss the particulars of what will happen in the divorce, especially with regards to the kids. The more you can decide what’s best out of court, the better. It may mean a lot of give and take, but it’ll be better than the stress and uncertainty of what could happen when a judge gets involved.
Be open with your children
While your children don’t need to know the hard details of your relationship and the divorce, with the things that do affect them, be open. When your children ask you questions, really listen and answer. Help build their confidence in this new phase of life. Help them know that you will always be there for them, no matter what. Sometimes children have concerns but don’t give voice to them, so create moments where they can feel comfortable talking about things.
Create separate positive environments
When you first start living separately, it will be a difficult change for the children. So try to make this time extra special and as positive as possible. Create traditions in each household. Make sure to spend lots of quality time with your children. Support the other parent as much as possible. Meeting up for pick up/drop off, you don’t have to be chatty, but remain calm and positive. Respect the call/text rules you set up so as to keep in contact but not interfere with the other parents’ children time.
Forgive each other
One of the worst things you can do after a divorce is hold a grudge against your spouse indefinitely. It will be like a cloud hanging over everyone; the kids will definitely feel it. They, in turn, may also reflect those same feelings. While divorce is difficult, especially if your ex did something to cause the divorce, forgiveness is possible. Especially for the kids, it’s important to work on letting go of the hurt, and deciding to move forward. This may take some time, but it’s important to work through it and show your children how to handle that difficult situation.