Divorce is challenging. There’s no way around it.
Since no one gets married figuring it’s going to end, a divorce can bring about some very trying and painful times. When kids are involved, their well-being needs to be a focus.
Consistency with kids when you’re divorced begins with a commitment. Careful attention to a few key factors can not only help during the transition times but with new life circumstances as well.
How can I maintain consistency with kids when I’m divorced?
1) ROUTINES AND SCHEDULES
Things get thrown out of whack when households split and lives drastically change. Managing a schedule kids can rely on and routines they can adhere to help with the upset.
Maybe kids know that Wednesdays are days with Dad and weekends alternate between parents. But even if a shared custody schedule is in place, there are additional proactive measures you can take to ensure kids maintain a sense of normalcy and flow.
You can’t control what goes on at the other parent’s home, but you can control your own environment. Stick with the same dinner and bedtimes as much as possible. Plan for upcoming events, appointments, practices by getting it on your calendar and sharing that information with your children. Getting them involved increases their ability to take charge of their own activites.
Organization within the home helps keep emotions in check too. A cluttered household leads to a feeling of “mind mess.” If your environment is kept clean and organized, your mind can follow suit.
Kids may struggle with the fear of the unknown. Routines help deter that. While changes in life are never ending no matter the situation, maneuvering through it is best done when a sense of predictability is already in place.
Talk! First and foremost, talk about things….everything. Ask them questions. Ask your kiddos everything from the basic mundane stuff to how they are feeling. Let them know you have an open door policy and no issue is ever off the table. Make sure they know they can come to you anytime day or night.
If you seriously cannot have a particular conversation at a certain time once they have approached you, remember it doesn’t take much effort to listen. Sometimes that’s all your kiddos need. If the conversation continues longer than you have time for at that moment, tell them that.
A simple, “Thank you for telling me. I would like to hear more about it/I want to discuss this with you more, but right now I’m trying to (fill in the blank). Can we keep going with this conversation after dinner?”
Kids are smart. Sometimes smarter and far more in touch than we give them credit. They know what’s what and they know what’s real. They will appreciate a respectful and thoughtful response even if you can’t drop everything for them at that exact second.
Communication also includes active listening. Active listening is not scurrying from room to room tidying up while your daughter trails behind trying to tell you what her friends said at lunch. It is not muttering an “Uh-huh. I’m sorry, dear.” while staring at your computer screen when your son says he got picked last for kickball at recess.
Active listening involves full focus. Turn to your child and connect with attention and eye contact. Hear what they say and let them finish. It doesn’t mean you have to solve problems for them, but it does mean you have given your awareness to who they are and what they need.
3) TIME AND ACTIVITIES
You’re busy. REALLY busy. As your kids age, they can become equally as busy. Between sports, extracurricular activities, jobs and friends, kids end up with some crazy hectic schedules too.
Remember, though, to take time for fun. Outings, adventures and time just simply spent together don’t need to cost a lot. Heck, they don’t need to cost anything! Board games, an at home movie, read aloud time, or a stroll around the block after dinner on Saturday night are all great ways to reconnect with one another.
Time can spiral out of control and get away from us so make sure to schedule time together. It gives everyone a chance to know what to expect and look forward to planned activities.
4) RULES AND EXPECTATIONS
Having everyone on the same page helps smooth transitions as well as establish a sense of normalcy in general. When it comes to the flow of everyday life, providing kids the knowledge of how things will be aids the feeling of stability.
Presenting clear rules and expectations ahead of time equips everyone in the household with the ability to know what to expect. Rules need not be rigid, but when established with love and the reasoning behind them, it allows for a feeling of balance, security, and support.
5) CONSTANT LOVE
You love your kids, and you know it. But do they?
Life is hard enough on its own, but big changes like divorce can mess with your kids’ mindset. Sure, in their hearts, they know their parents love them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need regular reminders and reassurances.
Have you ever told your daughter, “I love and you” and gotten an “I love you more” in response? I have. I was a little taken aback the first time my oldest daughter said it to me because I know that there is no greater love than what a mom has for her children. None.
So while sentiments like this from kids are extremely sweet, they’re the little signals that speak volumes. Listen closely. Be aware of what’s your children are saying and the feelings behind them.
Show love in an unlimited number of ways. “I love you” is a fantastic statement on its own but make sure you’re continually showing and not just telling.
6) ASSURANCE AND REASSURANCE
A divorce is an unsettling event for everyone in a family. It takes a considerable effort to provide kids with a decent support system. During a time of great upheaval, parents, especially, need to instill in their children with a feeling of security.
Environments like homes and schools may change. Financial situations might take a turn for the worse. These are tremendously tough things for anyone to handle.
“Everything will be ok” is a phrase kids need to hear in all kinds of ways. Back it up with reasons why like, “Dad & I will always love you and be here for you,” or “We can talk about anything whenever you like. I’m always ready to listen”.
Even when things are burdensome, there are always plenty of ways to bolster kids’ confidence that their lives will provide consistency and love.
Whether you realize it or not, your children are caught in the middle when it comes to divorce. They know full well that mom and dad aren’t a team anyone and the cohesive unit they once knew has gone by the wayside.
They know their parents most likely disagree with each other’s reasoning and ways of living. And they’re trying to bridge that difference. It’s undoubtedly not easy for them.
Take great care to ask their input about as many things as you possibly can. Ask them what they’d like for dinner Tuesday night, what color they think looks best on the kitchen wall when you’re repainting, what their favorite part of their school day is and why, what game they’d like to play Saturday night, what you ought to get Nana for Mother’s Day.
Kids need to feel valued at every age of life. By asking questions about how they feel and why they feel that way, it lets them know they are respected.
While divorce can bring unpleasant and anxious emotions, maintaining consistency and predictability in your efforts will transfer to your kids. They’re excellent sponges of the environment you create.
Your solidity allows them to experience calmness, stability and security. Take heart and congratulate yourself on your efforts. You have a lot of which to be proud.