How divorce will affect your kids is a very real concern. The reality is that divorce is hard on everyone, and it is going to affect everyone – most of all, your kids. I have practiced family law for over 25 years and I have been through my own divorce. The one thing that I can say, without a doubt, is that divorce does affect the kids. However, your kids will look to you and see how you are doing and they will be okay if you are okay. The best advice that I can give parents is to assure your children that you love them, that you are not leaving them, and that this has nothing to do with them. You should be honest with your children, but not involve them in the adult aspects of what is going on. Do not talk bad about their mom or their dad. You have to remember that they still love that parent regardless of what is going on between you and your spouse. Even when they are upset with that parent, they still will love them and they still will want that parent to love them.
I just think that the most important thing you can do is assure them that your mom or your dad still loves you, we both love you, we’re still a family. The truth is, they are going to see the other parent’s faults and they are going to see your faults. One of the things that I think I did right – I’m not saying I did everything right with my kids – but one of the things I did do right is I told my kids, “If either one of us, your dad or I, ever tells you to keep a secret from the other parent, probably the first thing you need to do is go tell the other parent because you should not be keeping secrets from your parents. If you ever have the chance to go into court and talk to the judge, then your job is to tell the truth. You’re not here to protect your mom. You’re not here to protect your dad. Your job is simply to tell the truth.”
We always told our kids that it was our job to make the decisions, that we are the parents, and we should be making the decisions for what is best for them. Maybe at times we would talk to them and ask them what they wanted, but ultimately, we would do what we thought was best. They might tell us what they wanted, but that didn’t mean that’s what we were going to do. We told the kids if we could not agree, we might have to go to court and let the judge decide, and they might even get to tell the judge what they wanted, but that did not mean the judge was going to do it, because the judge would have to do what the judge thought was right. I think when you explain things to kids, you just have to explain it on their level as best as you can.
The other thing to remember is that your spouse may use your kids as a weapon against you. Spouses do that all the time, because they know that is where they can get you. If they do, do not retaliate with your kids, because you are only hurting your kids. It is amazing to me because I see people that I know love their children, but they think they are hurting the other spouse, and they cannot see for the life of them that the people that they are hurting are their kids. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and you have to step back and not react out of anger. I think that is the hardest part. When it comes to your kids, you have to be able to turn the other cheek. I always tell my clients, as a parent, you can do whatever you have to do for your kids. I would encourage people to remember that your kids won’t be unaffected, but if you are okay, they are going to be okay. They are the most important part out of all of this because they didn’t ask for it.