Fifty years ago, divorce was relatively uncommon. Most couples stuck together through thick and thin regardless of whether or not things get rough. These days, getting married and divorced is almost as easy as ordering a pair of shoes online. We marry on a whim and file for divorce almost before the ink is dry on the marriage certificate.
There is no doubt that divorce and relationship breakdown affects kids. The statistics are harsh. Children from broken homes are far more likely to suffer mental health problems – some research studies put the figure at five times as likely. Another survey found that children from broken homes were nine times more likely to commit crimes. The truth is that relationship failures don’t just affect adults; they affect the kids too. But, just because you can’t live with your other half any longer, it doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer.
Kids Come First
The most important thing to remember when a relationship ends is that the kids should always come first. No matter how much you despise your ex – and you may hate them with a passion – your kids have done nothing wrong and they do not deserve to suffer.
All too many couples use their children as bargaining chips. They fight over who is going to have custody, they use the kids as weapons in a war of words, and they do their best to poison their children’s minds against the other parent. Nobody wins except the lawyers thrashing out a financial settlement through the family court system. The children end up emotionally damaged and the parents lose everything, including their dignity. Some kids struggle through, but others need help from a child therapist to help them work through their complex emotions.
Handle with Care
Even a divorce handled with the utmost care is traumatic for children. Many kids feel in some way responsible for their parents falling out of love or leaving with a third party. They may not ever know what’s going on because nobody thought to tell them. Younger kids end up being shunted back and forth and older kids are caught in the crossfire when each parent starts playing the ‘blame game’.
The only way to minimize the emotional damage is to act like adults. Just because you can’t stand the sight of your ex and you would be happier if you never saw them again, they are still the father/mother of your children, so in the interests of the kids, you need to treat them with respect at all times.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Unless your ex is violent or dangerous in some way, keep the lines of communication open. Discuss the needs of the children with them and agree to share responsibility equally. If you want an argument, wait until the kids are somewhere else. Do not share your pain with the kids. It is not their job to act as an armchair therapist. If you need to sound off about something that your ex-partner said or did, call your best friend or speak to a therapist.
Always put your kids’ needs first when a relationship ends. They didn’t ask to be stuck in the middle, so why should they suffer?