n the instance of two parents separating, things may suddenly be harder to manage than before when it comes to your family. What once took two is now split or entirely taken on by one. Whether it be divorce or a legal separation, understanding things from your child’s point of view can help you in helping to meet their needs fully. Children are impressionable, and taking the time to mitigate the impact of a separation for everyone involved can help make the process, and even the outcomes, more favorable.
As a parent we strive to make our kid’s happiness our number one priority, and that doesn’t change with a separation. During this time it’s best to assess your own needs and mental health first to take the time to address the heavy stuff, working to alleviate additional strains to the current situation. Letting the stress of the legal process get the best of you can have a trickle-down effect on our kids as children have a way of knowing when their parents are stressed and that may cause unintended harm. Avoid the uphill battle by staying on top of finances and other important family decisions.
Finances are one of the main strains during a separation, as your joint assets and expenses are likely going to be divided. However, there are still ways you and your former partner can work together on managing shared expenses during divorce. It’s important to reassess both of your individual contributions and make appropriate considerations with your family in mind. There will have to be adjustments such as managing your everyday living expenses, and family insurance plans. Also,if you and your partner were separated on or before Dec 31st, you’ll need to update your addresses and dependents with the IRS in time to change your filing status for the tax year.
Since a legal separation will be considered a qualifying life event, you and your fellow co-parent will need to update your health insurance plans through work as well. Take advantage of the insurance open enrollment period to make sure your family’s primary care doctors are in network. If they aren’t, use this time to find ones that are. Having doctors in-network for the whole family is critical during this time of change should their health take a toll due to the added stress. In the event that they require the aid of a specialist or a therapist during this time, they will be covered should they need additional support.
Creating new support systems for your children begins with establishing a structured environment at home. Your child may be confused, though you may keep an amicable relationship as parents, the confusion of two environments may leave your child feeling pulled in two directions. Help your children find their center, by guiding and establishing a routine that everyone can stick to. A routine can include things like:
However you and your spouse choose to help your child maintain structure at home, it’s also important for your child to have a clear understanding of the rules, rewards and disciplines at home. A stable environment doesn't mean isolation or ‘keeping them in line’. Although home life may now be different, having structure will help derail any attempts at rule breaking and strengthen our efforts at keeping healthy boundaries with our children during separation. Having structure at home will give your child the security they need to navigate their emotions best, and in turn, give them a sense of stability while in this new transition.
We know as parents how important it is to give our children rules but also room to grow. With structure enforced at home, another way to support your child’s needs during separation is to encourage them to interact in more engaging ways. During a separation you may begin to notice changes in your child’s behavior. They may retreat at home or lash out at school. To mitigate this type of behavior, help them find their community of peers and engage in more productive ways that’ll let them blow off some steam if they need to. Taking up extracurricular activities like joining a sports team or volunteering can give your child an outlet for communication they would otherwise avoid.
During a separation you want to do everything possible to keep your child comfortable. It may feel easy to let your child retreat into their tablets at home thinking it’s best to give them space. Instead, encouraging them to socialize will help stave off any uneasy feelings they may keep inside and help them gain a sense of how they feel. There are many techniques to co-parenting that’ll help your child thrive at home, but support and safety are the most important aspects when addressing your child’s needs as a whole. Having a community of peers will help them feel comfortable in sharing how they feel more regularly and how to express those feelings with you in a healthy manner.
Helping your child navigate their emotions will take some time. Depending on their age, adjusting to separation may be hard for them to sort out how they feel inside. Letting your child know that they're not alone during this time can help give them the space to express how they feel. Provide reassurance and love by letting them know that they still have both of their parents, but there are other approaches to keep in mind when helping your child through divorce.
Engaging at school may not be enough, they may need a different community of peers. Exploring the possibility of a resource group for children of divorced families may give your child the same sense of community you may get from your chosen support systems. Community resources like Helping Hands and BananaSplits will help your child understand that they are not alone, and they have people like them who are there to help them when they feel as though no one else is or has gone through what they’re currently experiencing.
This is a new transition for everyone involved, and it may not be easy to navigate in the beginning, especially for your children. Keeping your relationships healthy and respectful can ensure your child will maintain a sense of stability as they navigate the separation. As parents, making sure your child knows and is constantly reminded that they have the support of both of you in their corner will help them move forward with a stable foundation in place. Keeping that stability at the forefront of the separation will make it easier to find the resources that you, your partner and your child will need to best support one another during transition.
Chelsea is a twice-divorced mom of two boys. She is happily single parenting and doing her best to balance two simultaneous co-parenting relationships. Despite the complications, Chelsea can see the beauty in her story and believes healing is possible for the whole family.