Ending a marriage is heartbreaking; however, staying in a toxic relationship is not healthy for you or your children. Protecting the emotional and psychological health of your children is as critical as protecting their physical health. When you come to the realization that the relationship with your spouse is not working, you are faced with tough decisions. First among those is: What’s best for the children, and how can they be protected?
You may not be able to have a civil or meaningful conversation with your spouse at the moment, but you need to keep the lines of communication open with your children – no matter their age. Little ones need constant assurance that the breakup is not their fault. Teens may take sides, become belligerent or withdrawn. Kids are very resilient, and at the same time, they have a way of internalizing things. Many parents are so enmeshed in their own problems that they are oblivious to the burdens their kids are shouldering.
Protect your kids from assuming the weight of guilt and responsibility for the situation. Talk to them in terms they can understand. If possible you and your spouse should have a conversation together with the kids. Present a united front on this one issue if nothing else: you are not breaking up because of anything they did or did not do or say. Let them know that they have no fault in the status of your deteriorating relationship.
Create the Drama-Free Zone
Divorce is a very emotional time; feelings and reactions can be just below the surface. One wrong word or action and you and your spouse are off and running, sparks igniting and insults flying. The children don’t need to see this. It may take a great deal of self-control and emotional restraint, but you don’t want your children’s memories to be full of the time when mommy threw the clock at daddy or the time daddy yelled at mommy and she cried all day. When the kids are present, create a drama-free zone. It may be tempting to throw zingers back and forth, particularly if the kids are older, however, it’s best to refrain from negative actions. Take the high road and protect your child from toxic behaviors.
One of the cardinal rules for airplane safety should an emergency occur is to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. Self-care is imperative when going through a divorce. If you are reading this article, you have the inner resources to attend to your self-care. Getting the rest you need, eating healthy, exercising, even if it’s only going for a short walk, all are important during this time of stress and strain. Neglecting to care for yourself will affect your ability to shield your children from the emotional assaults that the break-up will have on them.
Protecting your kids during divorce boils down to creating an environment that is as neutral and positive as possible. This does not mean you give into their every whim and request. Discipline and house rules stay in effect. Relaxing the rules can send the wrong message, however, you can administer them with a dash of extra kindness and understanding. Find other proactive channels for making life for your kids more bearable during this time. True face-to-face quality time with your kids will go a long way in helping them accept the situation. It is also one of the major tools in protecting them from the ravages of divorce.