The following advice about children is based on my experience and reading. I am not a psychologist. Realize that your situation is unique and that this advice is general.
If you have children, the divorce can be as difficult for them as it is for you. Children will normally feel fear, confusion, guilt, depression, anger, and other emotions. Although you will be feeling these emotions too, you have a lifetime of experience to help you. The children have two parents. Generally, they look up to their parents and find security. Now those parents seem to be a source of stress rather than of reassurance.
The loss of their family is often worse for the children than the parents. Even infants are affected by parental conflict. They may not understand what their parents are arguing about but they understand the emotional intensity of the conflict. It is not uncommon to see infants or toddlers withdrawn and regress in their development.
You need to take steps to ease the burden on your children. Part of this involves how you tell them about the divorce and what you say about your spouse. It is usually better if both parents together tell the children about the divorce. Do not dump your bad feelings about your spouse on your children. Simply tell them that the grown-ups have decided it is better to live apart. Tell the children that the divorce is not their fault and that they will still have both parents. Avoid talking badly about the other parent, if there is any possible way to do so. A child is made from both parents. If a child is forced to look upon a parent as bad, the child cannot help but feel badly about part of themselves. Also, the judges do not like it. Tell the children it is all right to love both parents. Never get mad and compare your child to the other parent. “You are just as bad as your no good mother/father” are not words a child needs to hear.
I have watched the parent/child dynamic play out many times over the years. The most successful parent I know in divorce is a client of mine who refuses to talk bad about his ex-wife to his children, although he has more than sufficient reason to do so. He also refuses to let his children talk bad about their mother. His advice is that even if you don’t like what she does you must love your mother. He loves his children and gives them the time and attention they need. They return this feeling. Take the high road; it is a better trip for you and the children.
In Tennessee (my state), you are required to attend a seminar entitled “Children Cope with Divorce.” I recommend that you take the version of this seminar in your state so that you can put its helpful advice into practice as early as possible.
Depending on your circumstances, you may also want to alert your children’s counselors and teachers to the family change so that they can be on the lookout for behavior changes. Counseling can help many children as they adapt to life after their parents separate. There are also some good books out there to help your children cope with divorce. For younger children, The Dinosaurs Divorce by Laurence Krasny Brown and Marc Brown is helpful because they can relate to the pictures. For school-age children, The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce by Richard A. Gardner is a good choice. Your public library can also help you with reading material for your children. The American Bar Association publishes My Parents Are Getting Divorce, A Handbook for Kids.
Try to work with your spouse about the children. Many parents stand together on issues involving the children even though they are separating in a divorce. Do not let the children play parents off against each other. All children do this. Attempting to play one parent off against the other is normal for a child. Falling for it as a parent is not. Parents in divorce can even encourage this behavior. Do not use the children as your counselor. The children are not equipped for this and it will devastate them. At best, they can only give you childish advice. Your friends, family members, minister or professional can do this for you. This will be better for you and your children.
Discuss support and property division with your spouse, not your children. Do not use the children as messengers or spies. Do not recruit your child into the divorce war. Make a special effort to spend time with your children during this difficult time. Give them your full attention. Reassure them that both parents love them, even if you do not believe it. Give them extra love, attention, and understanding now- they need it. Although it is your divorce, the children’s needs come before yours.
This information is not a substitute for a lawyer.Do not try to use this information as a do-it-yourself divorce guide.The information it contains may not be appropriate for your particular situation.If you attempt to use the information instead of hiring a lawyer,you are setting yourself up for apotential disaster of epic proportions.