Divorce is hard on everyone involved. Yet when there are children involved, it can be especially difficult. The children, depending on their ages, may feel as though they are somehow responsible for their parent’s divorce. They may be dealing with issues of sadness, resentment and anger or may believe the divorce is for the best. Ideally – although not always possible – both parents should talk to their children together about the divorce and encourage them to express their feelings. It will take some time for the initial information to sink in. Eventually, the issue of discussing parenting plans and visitations may come up with your children. This is where parents need to remember to do what is in the best interests of the children. But how do you tell your children that they will live with one parent or the other without the children feeling like the noncustodial parent doesn’t care? Below, you’ll find some information to help you do just that.
Talking Children Six to 10 Years Old
The younger your children are, the more important it is to emphasize that both parents still love them and always will. It’s also important for children to know that the divorce isn’t their fault. Explain that even though the children will live primarily with the custodial parent, the other parent needs to emphasize that the children will still see the noncustodial parent regularly. Children need structure in their lives, so it’s important that they know exactly when they will be with the other parent. Create a calendar that shows the dates with the noncustodial parent. It’s also important that these visitations happen. Missing visitation repeatedly may make your children believe that you simply aren’t interested in or love them anymore.
Talking to 11- to 14-Year-Old Children
Preteen and early teens are becoming more independent. They are becoming more attached to their friends. They may express anger at one parent and blame him or her for the divorce. They may want to have a say in where they will live or when they will see the noncustodial parent. Let them know that you value their opinion, but that you and their other parent will make the final decision.
Keep in mind that children this age are becoming more involved in extracurricular activities and those should be considered if at all possible in the parenting plan. Parents should also try to be as involved with their children’s activities as much as possible.
Talking to Your 15- to 18-Year-Olds
When children get to this age group, they are focused on being independent. They also believe that they are able to make their own decisions. Instead of family, these children are usually more focused on school, their friends, work or extracurricular activities. Having flexibility with parenting plans and visitations is a good idea. Allowing your older teenagers to express their ideas on visitation and living arrangements is also a good idea. However, it’s important that they realize that the final decision rests with you and the noncustodial parent.
It’s not easy trying to juggle parenting plans and visitation. As parents, you want what is best for your children. Sometimes, though, that can be hard to see during a divorce. If needed, ask for help from a professional to develop a parenting plan and visitation. Courts have access to parenting specialists who can help you see alternatives you might not have considered before. For most children, they simply want to know that their parents still love them and want to spend time with them.