As hard as divorce can be for parents, it is usually much worse for their children. Counselors, therapists, and family law attorneys see the devastating effects years and even decades later. While the parents have rebuilt their lives and moved forward, the children are still suffering.

While you cannot insulate a child from all impacts caused by a divorce, there are strategies for minimizing the trauma and hardship and protecting children in divorce.

Limit Exposure to Conflict

Children exposed to conflict between their parents can suffer from long-term anxiety and stress. Studies show that the trauma can affect children’s ability to function as adults years later. Conflict is inevitable even in the best of marriages, and it is to be expected in a marriage that is ending. However, parents should take all possible precautions to keep the conflict away from their children.

In many divorces, parents arrange their own agreements regarding contentious issues such as how to divide property and debts. While this is an ideal approach in many ways, try to work with attorneys or mediators in a setting away from your children.

Create a Child Agreement with Your Ex

McKinney family lawyers have seen that creating a child agreement is one of the most effective ways to reduce the effect of conflict on children in divorce. A child agreement represents a commitment to put the children’s interests at the forefront. The terms serve as a guideline for parents rather than legal rules.

A family lawyer could help develop an agreement that includes a commitment to:

  • Listen to children’s concerns
  • Avoid arguments in the presence or earshot of children
  • Provide emotional and physical support for children’s needs
  • Avoid airing grievances to the children
  • Treat the other parent with respect
  • Avoid actions or statements that could turn a child against the other parent

The goal is not to develop a legal document that can be enforced in court but to create a sense of commitment to remind you of the impact of your actions and protect your highest priorities.

Talk to the Children Jointly

As often as practical, but especially when breaking the initial news about the divorce, it is a good idea for parents to speak to the children jointly. This enables the children to see that the decision did not come from one side but is an action agreed to by both parents.

In later stages, if a question or conflict arises, presenting a united front to children can be reassuring and prevent a child’s attempts to pit one parent against the other to gain a short-term objective.

Both parents need to take time to listen to their children and allow the children to ask questions or express concerns. When answers come from both parents together, they carry far more weight.

Use Strategies to Promote Resiliency

A divorce is like a death in many ways, and the mourning and adjustment process is complex for children and parents. McKinney family lawyers know that when parents take the time to address the emotional issues, everyone is better equipped to emerge from the process ready to move forward.

Therapy or counseling is likely to be beneficial for everyone at some point in the process and should never be seen as a crutch or sign of weakness but rather as a tool to promote healing. Allow yourself and your child to grieve, but try not to dwell for too long on regrets. Express love frequently but resist the temptation to make up for lost parenting time by showering children with extra gifts or indulging their every whim. Children do not need you to be their buddy. They need parents with the strength to continue parenting.

Experienced McKinney Family Lawyers Protect Your Family in Divorce

When you work with the right McKinney family law attorneys, your legal advisors can prepare you for each step in the process so that you can focus on the needs of yourself and your family. If you have questions or need assistance during the divorce process, talk to the dedicated team at Nordhaus & Nordhaus, PC to learn how we could assist.