Divorce can be emotionally challenging for most spouses, but when you add children to the mix, the stress just went up to a whole other notch. As a divorcing parent, not only do you need to manage your own emotions, but you’ll be dealing with your child’s emotions as well. And if you have several children, the emotions are magnified.
While infants and toddlers may seem the ideal age for parents to go through a divorce, this isn’t always true. For example, let’s say the parents split just before the child’s birth. The baby is breastfeeding and will not take a bottle, so this may delay overnight visits for the other parent. In this scenario, the father or other parent may be very concerned that he/she will not get the chance to “bond” with the child.
For Parents of Infants
If you have a newborn, overnight visits may need to be delayed initially until the child is on a bottle. If this happens, it can help if the other parent visits regularly. If the mother is breastfeeding and the child refuses a bottle, the other parent can still arrange visits while the mother is within arm’s reach for feeding.
With newborns, as time goes by overnight visits can be introduced and though it may not feel like it at first, time will fly. The key is to schedule frequent visits with the other parent until they can ask for more parenting time.
If these visits are not arranged, there can be bonding challenges and it can be more difficult to leave the child with the other parent alone. Insufficient parent-child bonding can be like leaving the child with a stranger when the child does finally spend more time with that parent, so frequent visits from the beginning can minimize challenges.
For Parents of Preschoolers
Every family’s situation is different. Some preschoolers are cared for by nannies all day while Moms and Dads work full-time. Others are cared for by a daycare or a stay-at-home mother or father. Generally, if the child is accustomed to being watched all day by Grandma, a nanny, or a daycare provider, the divorce may not affect the child very much, if at all.
On the other hand, if the child is cared for by a stay-at-home mom or dad, how the child is impacted by the divorce may depend on two factors: 1) if the stay-at-home parent has to go back to work, and 2) if the stay-at-home parent continues caring for the child full-time.
In the latter example, the preschooler may handle the divorce well because for them, not much is changing. On the other hand, if the parent has to go back to work, the child will most likely be placed in daycare or a nanny will be hired.
If your child was being cared for by a parent and now they have to go to daycare or have a nanny, understand that while this is a transition, it should be temporary and your child should adapt within a month or so. The best thing you can do is thoroughly research your childcare options, and make your selection carefully. Try to find a childcare provider who will take excellent care of your son or daughter.
If you receive joint physical custody, try to keep things as consistent as possible at both households. This means talk to your co-parent and arrange it so you have the same meal, bath and bedtimes, and the same rules. Also, don’t stop your child from bringing their favorite toys, books, and blankets to both homes as these items can offer your child comfort when transferring between households.
For Parents of Elementary-Age Children
If your child is in elementary school, it’s very important to reassure him or her that the divorce is not their fault. Refrain from talking bad about your child’s other parent within hearing distance, and shower your child with love.
We also recommend spending lots of quality time with your child, keeping rules and consequences consistent at both households, and here’s a big one – getting along with your co-parent. If you and your co-parent can treat each other with kindness and respect, it can make all the difference in how your child handles the divorce.
A Small Takeaway
If you can build each other up and show a united front, it will benefit your growing child by providing stability during a very uncertain time in their life. And know that there is always help – support groups, family therapists, friends and loved ones can be great resources when learning to navigate these new waters.
Contact Morneau Law
Morneau law practices collaborative law and collaborative divorce law, which allows individuals to avoid an adversarial divorce, family law litigation or other disagreement in the court system. This Practice is client-centered and client-controlled. The process begins with an assessment of the individual needs of each client. During our consultation, we will discuss your case to determine the best path forward for you. Contact us today!