One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is managing the well-being of the children involved. Adults often experience stress and anxiety both from the legal process and fear of the unknown. Children pick up on this distress while also having their own concerns. Answering your children’s questions thoughtfully and carefully can help them deal with the uncertainty about the future.
The divorce attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. help New York and New Jersey parents navigate these and other sensitive issues as your family works through this major transition.
Why a child’s divorce questions are different from an adult’s
Friends and family will have lots of questions about what led to your divorce, but questions from your children are different.
Children, no matter how smart or seemingly advanced, do not have the same maturity as adults. This can be difficult for parents to realize when they are going through the dissolution of their marriage. It is not uncommon for parents to begin to treat their children like miniature adults, even using them as a substitute for adult conversations in the absence of their ex-spouse. However, this is confusing and burdensome to the children.
No matter how intelligent your minor child is, resist the urge to treat them as adult friends rather than children. Avoid venting in front of them or otherwise putting them in the position where they need to provide you with emotional support. In addition to placing a burden on them, this prevents you from seeing the psychological toll that the divorce may be having on them.
Balance honesty with over-sharing
Even when striving for honesty, it is essential to remember that children do not need to hear the full truth. Selectivity is important since it prevents them from being pulled into adult matters.
It is helpful to provide answers to factual questions– like where everyone will be living and how time-sharing will take place. However, going into specifics about fault or more private details can put undue stress on a child. Instead, focus on giving age-appropriate answers in ways that address the underlying motivations driving the questions—their unease, fear of abandonment, or other emotional issues that your child may be facing. In fact, many questions are really invitations for reassurance that they are still loved and supported.
Avoid criticizing the other parent
No matter the circumstances of your marital split, never bad-mouth your ex in front of your child. This is primarily for your child’s benefit, but it also helps keep you out of trouble.
When you say negative things about your former spouse, it can make your child feel like they need to choose between the two of you. It can also create anxiety and fear to see one parent showing great hostility to someone they used to love. The divorce will likely include language forbidding either parent from disparaging the other. If you make a habit of violating this clause, it can lead to the other parent taking legal action against you. You might face a contempt action or even be accused of attempting to alienate the child from the parent, which could lead to the court cutting back on your parenting time. Your divorce attorney can help you navigate through these issues.
Help your child feel safe
Upheaval is stressful for children. The most helpful thing you can do is answer questions in a way that helps your child feel secure.
Take the time to listen to what your child is asking. Let them know you understand how they are feeling. Tell your child that you are all still family even though that family will do things differently from now on. In other words, reinforce the idea that no matter what happens they still have two parents who love them.
Get advice from a New York and New Jersey divorce lawyer
The divorce lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. are committed to helping residents of Bergen County and Rockland County through the toughest parts of their divorce. Our team has been supporting family law clients for decades, and we are here to help you, too.
We understand the need for you to provide a smooth transition for your children and are here to provide expert advice. Call today to speak with Paul B. Goldhamer and our divorce team. Consultations are always strictly confidential.