Once the decision to divorce has been made, there is much to be arranged and thus discussed. Divorcing partners usually find themselves in an emotional rollercoaster, making it difficult to come to reasonable agreements. It is even more difficult when there are children involved. Because of the children, you are more or less bound to each other for life. You will regularly have to make arrangements together. This makes a divorce with children in all cases more emotionally taxing and has a great impact on the children. In order to separate as well as possible, it is important to make these choices together and good communication between the parties is a crucial factor. Through good communication, you can prevent emotional damage to each other but also to your children.
Communicating with your ex-partner
We break up relationships that we had started full of expectations and with the best of intentions. In a relationship, you often have a fixed pattern with which you react to each other as partners. A divorce is the moment to break through that pattern. And to take a good look at yourself, because you want to do things differently from now on, for yourself but also for your children. Still, sometimes there are disappointments and misunderstandings. The basis of every relationship is communication. If we look at where things go wrong in our communication, it turns out that the failures usually do not stem from the content of the conversation but from the way things are said. The other person just doesn’t seem to ‘understand’ you and before you know it you find yourself in the same old traps again. Accepting and processing a divorce is a difficult task in itself for a child. Due to the poor communication between the ex-partners, the children can develop even more psychological problems.
Effects of divorce on children
Divorce is a painful event that is often accompanied by conflict. This can affect the partner physically and psychologically, but also the children. The most common consequences of divorce for children are low self-esteem, behavioural problems, anxiety and depressed feelings. When a divorce is very conflictual and complex, the consequences for children are also more serious. Developing a secure attachment with the parents is a crucial developmental task for young children. Secure attachment requires favourable conditions, such as an available parent who offers peace, security, stability and trust. These conditions are under pressure during and after a divorce. During a separation, it is important for young children to be able to continue the bond with their parents. A safe contact with both parents is fundamental here. An insecure attachment can lead to reduced self-confidence, reduced resilience and behavioural problems. Children also often experience the separation as a stressful situation which they cannot control or influence. In uncontrollable stressful situations, children will tend to (try to) ignore or deny the problem and even take the form of post-traumatic stress. Stress can also lead to loyalty conflicts. Loyalty is the natural bond between parents and child that arises at birth whereby a child is almost always loyal to both its parents. In loyalty conflicts, one or both parents may be heavily reliant on their child. In a complex divorce, parents can sometimes consciously or unconsciously force their child to choose. This creates an inner conflict in the child, who naturally wants to be loyal to both parents. Having to choose is a hopeless task for a child and often leads to him trying to choose between both parents. It may be that a child comes home to the mother from a weekend with the father and says to the father that it was very nice, but to the mother that it was terribly boring. Studies show that it is important for a child to get approval from one parent to have a good time with the other. In some divorces, it can even happen that the child thinks he is or is made responsible for the parental well-being. The child is (and/or feels) called upon to take on improper care. The above effects are common in a parental divorce where there is a lot of miscommunication and tension between the parents.
Preventing a divorce
As a parent you want the best for your child, so that alone is a reason to avoid communication problems. Below, we offer a number of tips to ensure that you continue to communicate well with your ex-partner during the difficult period of your divorce:
- It is important to continue to see each other and have face-to-face conversations. Try to avoid making difficult decisions via WhatsApp or a phone call.
- Listen to the other person (but look at yourself!) Listen carefully to the other person and only respond to what he or she says. Do not bring in things that are not relevant to this conversation.
- Always try to remain calm and respectful of each other. If you notice emotions running high during a conversation, stop it so that you can continue it calmly later on.
- If you immediately lay all your demands on the table during a conversation, this may discourage your partner. Therefore, try to calmly make decisions about things one by one.
- Whenever you discuss a subject, always try to get your ex-partner to react and speak up. This will give you a clear idea of what your ex-partner thinks about the subject.
- In the talks, try to get things done instead of begrudging your ex-partner things. You will see that with a positive attitude you will have better conversations.
- To help the conversation along, it is helpful to avoid closed words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. This way, you keep an open conversation and you can continue to have good conversations.
- Make sure you go into the interview well prepared. This includes thinking about the things that might be complicated or emotional for you.
- Agree that irritations should be expressed directly, and not kept bottled up.
- Talk about the conversations you have with the people around you. This way you have an outlet for your emotions and they can help you put things into perspective or give you further tips for future conversations.
There are various forms of help available when the divorce is difficult, besides the support of your lawyer and/or mediator. For example, you can seek support from people close to you, social workers or fellow sufferers. When it comes to supporting children, there are voluntary organisations and youth services that can offer guidance. Talking about difficult choices gives peace of mind, clarity and contributes to a positive attitude.
Lock and key
That the interests of the children should come first seems self-evident, and therefore not worth mentioning. But it can even be an important key if you cannot work something out together: think about what the children would like? That settles many discussions. Recognising the pattern in which you are trapped together is the first step in stopping it. How to stop such a pattern is not an easy task: this is top-class sport and requires you, as a parent, to look at what is needed for the children and where your emotions come from when communicating with your ex-partner. The quickest way to the future is to recognise what is affecting you and to dare to ask yourself the question which is causing you to lock up and no longer be able to rationally discuss matters with the other parent. And that is usually where the key lies.
Are you planning a divorce and do you want to arrange everything as well as possible for your children? Or do you still have problems after the divorce? Do not hesitate to contact the divorce lawyers of Law & More. We will be happy to advise and assist you.