UK Family Law Reform

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How to make your divorce as easy on the children as possible

So you have decided to end your marriage? Surely you have good enough reasons for this important decision, but explaining that to your children might be one of the hardest things you will ever do. If you have ever heard of "The Butterfly Effect" (not the film), this would be the prime example of it. This situation and how you handle it will affect your children's lives way beyond childhood. It is the early experiences that mould their character and shape their perception of the world around them.

Breaking the news to your kids
No matter how many articles you have read beforehand there is no easy way to do this. Prepare yourself for the worst and go in with a smile and tonnes of patience. There is lots of information and advice on the ways of looking after children through the divorce process, however, in an ideal scenario, you would team up with your spouse and brainstorm how you would do it together. Every child is different and only you know how yours might react. You should also take into consideration your child's age and factor that into your explanation and the way you go about it. Imagine how hard it is for you. Well, for your child it is a problem of a catastrophic scale. They will typically start wondering if it is their fault and whether the parents do not love them anymore. Make sure that you make it as clear as possible that it is NOT the child's fault. For a younger offspring, a fairytale approach might be suitable. At the end of the day, not every love story ends in a happy-ever-after and that's okay.

Handling their initial reaction
It is entirely up to you how you justify the divorce to your children but consoling them and telling them about how much you love them is crucial. You might have to face a myriad of questions from your panicking offspring. Prepare yourself for some of the more obvious ones and first let the child get it off their chest. Encourage them to talk honestly about their feelings and be sympathetic. Help your children see positives. There are going to be two lots of every holiday, more quality time with parents and other post-divorce perks.

Helping your children cope
Children tend to fantasise about their parents getting together. They might even threaten you to do so. They might make life a living hell for your new partners. It is up to you to manage it. As mentioned earlier, loving and empathetic is all you should be . It will take your children many years to understand the divorce from your point of view. Also, it might be a good idea to hold off bringing any new "parent" into your children's lives. Give them time to come to terms with all that's happening.

No matter how amicable a divorce, it is quite likely that you will be living separately. In the worst case scenario, you might need the help of law to decide who the children stay with, so do make sure you are up to date on the laws involved.

Never fight in front of them
It is way too common for emotions to get in the way and an occasional fight to break out, which is absolutely normal - we are only human after all. However, how you act around your children after the divorce will affect your relationship with them. Do not be that parent who talks badly about their spouse. Your children do not see either of your faults, so do not take this opportunity to parade them in front of them. Some parents get jealous or start playing tug-of-war with their children. As you can imagine, eventually that will yield disastrous results. Take this opportunity to make your relationship with your children stronger. Now, they need you even more than ever.

Helping kids adjust to a new life
Now that the storm is over, it is time for everyone to adjust to a new way of living. A consistent routine might go a long way in ensuring your child’s mental stability. Try not to skip on that one-to-one quality time as it is crucial for maintaining you relationship. Take a keen interest in their life and soon enough those silly stories from the schoolyard will grow into intimate secrets and teenage revelations. Keep your eye out for a change in behaviour. It might be that your child is growing up or it might be a result of your divorce. Enquire more about your child's performance and behaviour in school. Read up as much as you can on how divorce can psychologically impact a child and seek help if you notice your child getting anxious, depressed or angry. Older kids and teens may be vulnerable to risky behaviours such as substance abuse, skipping school, and defiant acts.

If by the time you go in for that "big talk" with your child you forget everything you have ever read, just remember to keep your cool, listen to all they have to say and simply show how much you love them. Good luck!

Co-Parenting After Divorce by Edward Kruk 9th March 2013

Divorce costs warning issued to lawyers 28th February 2013

Figures show divorce hot spots 20th February 2013

Divorced fathers have 'tough time' by Jonathan Agnew 17th February 2013

Socio-economic impact of divorce and family breakdown Netherlands 31st January 2013

Divorced from Reality By Stephen Baskerville June 2009

Children's divorce fears 'go up' 5th January 2009

Agony aunts give advice to minister 18th December 2008

Tories to make it harder to divorce 16th November 2008

How to do a good divorce 15th October 2008

Divorce still damaging to children despite being more acceptable 8th July 2008

Law Commission drags heels on divorce reform 16th June 2008

Rising divorce tide threatens 1 in 2 couples 28th March 2008

Five Myths about No-Fault Divorce by Stephen Baskerville 6th March 2008

How to turn a free people into slaves 15th January 2008

Millionaire regrets marrying 'career divorcee' 24th December 2007

Divorcee seeks change in law to protect her home 14th November 2007

Pay me £50m by Friday or I'll see you in court, Heather tells Macca 18th October 2007

Bid to reduce court divorce cases 15th October 2007

Family judges campaign to take the bitterness and costs out of divorce 4th October 2007

Divorce rate at lowest for decades 31st August 2007

Man ordered to help ex-wife who spent her divorce cash 28th June 2007

Need a child-friendly dad? Then get divorced 19th June 2007

Government ‘must protect children from divorce harm’ 12th June 2007

Unmarried couples get equal rights on ‘divorce’ 11th June 2007

Divorcees may have assets taken to fund an ex-spouse’s debts 10th May 2007

Women to receive less in divorce settlements 14th April 2007

How equality meant the end of gender typecasting 11th April 2007

Divorce laws that discredit our system 6th March 2007

Divorce mediation could save millions 2nd March 2007

Divorce - Do women win too much? 22nd February 2007

Divorcing couples are set to fight over assets worth more than 30 billion pounds 18th January 2007

The Divorced Dad’s Handbook 12th January 2007

Divorce better than arguing, say children 8th January 2007

For better, not worse - divorce hits five-year low 1st September 2006

Divorce laws 'are destroying marriage' 26th August 2006

Making divorce humane 26th August 2006

An antiquated system forged in the age of stigma and intolerance 26th August 2006

'Wealthy women set the pace in divorce stakes' 20th August 2006

Couples in their twenties take divorce to new high 1st September 2005

Women happier than men after divorce, study shows 4th July 2005

Children of divorced parents are more likely to end their own marriages 2nd July 2005

Divorce mediation scheme flops 27th June 2005

Divorcing parents ‘cost billions’ 22nd June 2005

Do dads get a raw deal on divorce 20th May 2004

Divorce as Revolution By Stephen Baskerville 22nd July 2003

'Divorce Dissent' By Ruth Deech 1994

The Pellman brief 2nd September 1993

A change would be in the best interests of children.