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The decision to get a divorce doesn’t happen over night, and sometimes the realization that your marriage is coming to an end is shocking and inconvenient. There are several times throughout the year when parents consider delaying the formalities of divorce. The end of the school year, vacations, and holidays are often romanticized as times that are traditionally filled with joy, excitement and celebration. Parents do not want to hurt their children, or ruin these experiences for them.
In the midst of the holiday season, you may be worried that announcing your divorce could have a bigger impact on your children than it would at other times of the year. You may also be concerned that your children will forever relate the holidays with the divorce. These concerns can motivate you to wait until the new year to make an official announcement.
Below are 10 things to consider if you are planning on waiting:
- Make a Plan: Work with your co-parent to agree on when you are going to pick things up again. Setting a date will help you create boundaries. Without that, you can be left with frustration and uncertainty. Working on open communication and cooperation from the beginning of the separation can set positive patterns in motion for ongoing cooperation. This doesn’t necessarily mean positive cooperation will start right away.
- Set Ground Rules: Agree that you will not fight or talk about the separation in front of the kids. Dropping hints, skipping traditions, or engaging in verbal digs is unnecessary and will create bad feelings.
- Take Care of Yourself: Find time to be alone and do things that you enjoy. This will help you manage your stress.
- Begin New Traditions: In preparation for creating a new life after divorce, find something new to do with your children. Spend some time observing activities your children enjoy. Continuing to do things together creates a context for having an ongoing relationship.
- Practice Co-Parenting: Regardless of marital status, you are still parents together. It can take time to establish effective co-parenting, especially when emotions are high and you are building a new relationship with one another. Starting now allows you to begin establishing a working relationship from the early stage of divorce.
- Get Organized: Take inventory of your finances. Gather information about your accounts, budget, taxes, and end-of-year statements. Make sure you are aware of your assets, debts, and credit cards you have together.
- Begin the Process: Even if you do not want to formally announce the divorce, you can begin the process. This may involve preparing yourself emotionally and interviewing mediators and/or attorneys.
- Learn About Divorce Laws: In most states, assets and debts are shared until the couple has filed for divorce. In hurt emotional states, people can overspend because they feel it is well deserved or they want to punish their partner. For that reason, you may want to file before the holidays, even if you do not plan on taking other actions until later.
- Prepare To Tell Your Children: How you tell your children can have a big impact on their understanding and experience of the divorce. It is recommended that you tell the children together, and ensure them that it is not their fault. Emphasize your love and remind them that you will always be there. I recommend a book called, “How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce?” by Rosalind Sedacca. This book takes a storybook approach to preparing your children with love.
- Remember it is a Process: It may sound simple, but grief takes the time it takes. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Ask for support from those in your network of friends and family, and be patient with the process. Things will get easier.
When and how you tell your children about the divorce is a personal decision to be made with your co-parent. Regardless of where you are in your own adjustment, it is important to communicate that it is not their fault and that you will always be there for them. Remember that your children will have their own unique reaction. Prepare yourself to give them time to respond with all the love and compassion you have for them.