There are so many ways to help your children to thrive post-separation or divorce. The most important thing you can do as parents is to make a conscious effort to help them to become resilient. I have come up with my Top 10 Tips for parents, divided into two articles to make it more palatable. Here’s Tips 1-5. Tips 6-10 can be found here.
Tip #1 – Encourage open dialogue with the kids
When talking with the kids about the separation, there are so many things to consider. In my view, the most important thing is to ensure that the children know you’re there to chat anytime they want.
They may have questions right away, or they may just need time to absorb the information you’re giving them. I encourage parents to observe their children over time to see how they’re doing.
Depending on each child’s personality, they may need to be prompted to talk, or they may come to you asking questions. Be there for them when they’re ready to open up.
Understanding what your children are thinking about the separation will give you golden nuggets of information to figure out how to best support each of them.
Tip #2 – Create consistency and predictability in the parenting schedule as much as possible
A parenting schedule will look different for every family. Families where one or both parents have an unpredictable work schedule will find it more challenging to come up with a set parenting schedule. However, consistency and predictability are great ways to help children adjust to any schedule for moving between their two homes helps to:
- Create reliability for a child – they can learn to count on when they get to see each parent
- Feeling secure in knowing what to expect of their comings & goings
- Feeling in control of their environment
Tip #3 – Encourage distance parenting through video-chat or phone calls – either by request or when initiated
You and your co-parent will create a parenting schedule as you move into two homes. It may be equal or unequal time – but irrespective of the amount of time the children have with each parent, it’s important for children to stay connected with both parents.
Kids these days are very adept at using technology to stay in touch with people – why not extend this to each parent. When they’re not with one parent, create opportunities to communicate – not so that it interferes with one parent’s time, but in a way that enhances the parent who’s not with the kids at that moment.
Things like – FaceTime and other video-messaging, texting, phone calls and other forms of communication. Some parents even use apps to communicate with their kids. If messaging like texting doesn’t regularly and spontaneously occur, I recommend setting specific times each week to communicate with the kids while they are with the other parent, to ensure that time doesn’t slip by – something like every week on Tu/Th/Sa @ 6:30 or whatever.
Tip #4 – Children should never be used as a messenger
This one is pretty self-explanatory – communication should always be direct. Kids should never be the ones to carry messages between co-parents – kids really feel put in the middle between their parents.
When a message is passed through a child – typically the result is some form of negative feedback by the receiving parent to the child, which can be very upsetting to the child. “Mom told me to tell you…” can result in “Well, you tell your mom…” – kids will feel very stuck, and will carry the negative emotions with them.
If that’s not enough to convince a parent to avoid using the children as a messenger – consider the reliability of the message being transmitted – think of the game of telephone tag – that’s a huge responsibility for a child to have to remember what to tell the other parent, and to get it right.
This extends even to passing items between parents – such as child support or other notes. This should be done directly between the parents, or electronically.
Tip #5 – Maintain quality relationship between children and each parent
Avoid kids having to take sides – allow the children to love both parents equally.
Quality doesn’t always have to equate with quantity. Regardless of how much time the kids have with each parent, a quality relationship is defined by things like:
- Engaging with each other regularly
- Being actively involved and engaged with things are important to them – their activities, school progress and issues, knowing their interests
- Participate in day-to-day things with them – helping them with their music practice or sports skills –
- Be available to them without distraction
- Having a meal together without electronics – good ol’ conversation at the dinner table
- Creating special time together – doing things they like to do – whether it’s reading or doing crafts together with smaller children, or things like playing video games with older children – embrace their interests
These things can be face-to-face or on video-chat with them.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.