If you are going through a divorce with children, your primary concern is likely to be that of your children. Divorce is often hard on children and it is important that they continue to feel loved by both of their parents, even if they are living apart. Here are some helpful tips to help your children cope through a divorce process.

Guidelines for Parents

1. Remember that even if your marriage is over, you will still have a relationship with your ex as a parent, especially while the children are still minors. Try to remember and value your ex as the mother or father to your children and how much your children love them. 

2. Share happy memories with your children.

3. It is important that your children do not feel at fault for the divorce. Children, especially younger ones, often feel that something they did or secretly thought caused their parents to break up. Remind them that they are not to blame.

4. Children can struggle with feeling like they are being abandoned or rejected when one parent moves out of the household. Assure them that they are not being abandoned and that the other parent loves them. 

5. Remember that children can sense and pick up on your feelings towards your ex. If you feel resentment or bitterness, make sure you do not show that in front of your children. Sometimes those feelings will have a bigger impact than the divorce itself. 

6. Respect is vital. Do not voice any criticism of the other parent in front of the children. Children look to both of their parents for moral authority, capability, and reliability and they do not want to hear any of their parents degraded or humiliated. If you try to destroy you children’s views of their mother or father, it will have a direct impact on their well-being. 

7. Do not encourage your children to “take sides.” Most children who have eventually regret doing so and then hold resentment for the parent that allowed them to do so. 

8. Do not place your children in the middle.

9. Never make your children feel guilty for showing affection, fairness, or decency towards the other parent. This is a cruel way to take advantage of your children that will have seriously psychological damage for years to come. 

10. Do not give your child any false belief that they are the decision makers in custody or visitation matters. This is cruel to the child and also a misrepresentation of the law. The Judge will be the ultimate deciding factor and weighs many factors in deciding the best custody and visitation schedule.

11. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy and consistency for the child. Try to not disrupt their routine too much. Having to adopt with too much change at a time is not good for children.

12. Consistency is important, especially when it comes to raising your children. Try to maintain an open dialogue with your ex regarding rules, behaviors, and disciplinary actions. It is also important to keep control and direction consistent—don’t let things slide just because you are going through a divorce. Children feel more secure when limits are set. 

13. If you are having financial issues, as many recently separated individuals do, do not hide these problems from your children. The atmosphere is healthier when the parents are honest and when the children know they are expected to help. 

14. Make sure your children are aware of what is going on between their parents and what changes are going to come. Children will slowly pick things up on their own and will be much better off knowing what is going on than thinking something is but not knowing what. Keep the conversations brief, prompt, direct, and honest. Make sure your children know that they can ask questions.


Visitation Guidelines

1. Visitation should be pleasant for both the children and the parents. Visitation should help your children maintain a positive relationship with the other parent. 

2. Visitation is not mean to be limited to the house. Unless specifically ordered not to, the visiting parent can take the child on outings and trips where they choose during their parenting time. 

3. Visitation is a time for the parent and children to maintain strong relationships. While the children can visit friends, it is important that time with others is limited. If too much time is spent without the parent, the relationship may diminish and the child may think the parent does not have enough time for them. 

4. Keep a consistent visitation schedule. Consistency is vital for children. If you are unable to have visitation during your time, let the other parent know in advance. If you simply do not show up, it will be seen as rejection by the children. 

5. It is also important to respect the other parent’s time. This includes their time without the children. If you have to change the visitation schedule, it should be for emergency situations only and should be given with warning to the other parent. 

6. Remember that sometimes the visitation schedule may need to be adjusted for the children’s activities. 

7. If you are the non-custodial parent, remember that your relationship with your children is still incredibly important and that they need both of their parents. 

8. Spending time with their parents is the most important thing for children. Activities (such as amusement parks) can be great ways to bond with your kids, but make sure you are also spending quality time with them. Additionally, if you are only doing fun things with your kids and constantly giving them rewards, it may lead to resentment from the other parent. A healthy balance of fun and amusement with quality time and discipline is ideal, for both the children and the parents.

9. Do not use your children to try to get information about the other parent. 

10. Your children will likely have periods of adjustment after each visitation. This is normal. Each parent should do their best to make every effort to discuss and agree on ways to deal with these problems. 

11. Both parents should agree on matters regarding the children, especially discipline. Neither parent should undermine the other. 


Getting Help

            Going through a divorce or separation is taxing on children, and parents can’t always do it on their own. While your friends and families often mean well, they can often aggravate the situation, as they are rarely objective. Seeking help from psychologists for you and your children can be one of the most effective ways to manage emotional well-being. 

Hiring an attorney is also a big help in navigating the legal aspects of your situation. Additionally, your attorney will be a strong advocate for you. The attorneys at Smith | Strong, PLC always have our client’s interests and wishes in mind and work tirelessly to achieve the best outcome possible.

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg