Tips to Help You Survive Divorce Without Hurting Your Children

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

The end of a marriage can be challenging for parents and children alike, but it doesn’t have to be damaging. As with most major life changes, divorce requires careful planning and thoughtful execution to ensure that your kids remain as unscathed as possible. However, unless you’re one of the fortunate few whose split is amicable, the prospect of divorce will likely fill you with dread. After all, so many things could go wrong; how can you ensure they don’t? Parenting is challenging enough without also having to navigate a separation. But with courage and a little research, it doesn’t have to be so hard on your kids.

Make the Break Official

Because most divorces don’t happen overnight, your child has likely been living with uncertainty for months or even years. This can be stressful for kids, who need predictability and stability to thrive. Make the break official as soon as possible, even if you don’t have a court date booked. If a separation agreement has been drafted, sign it as quickly as you can. You’ll remove a great deal of pressure and uncertainty by showing your child that things are settled. If you’re unsure how to proceed, speak to a family lawyer about what you can do to reduce this uncertainty. Your child isn’t interested in why you’re separating; they want things to be normal again. Making the breakup as official as possible will give your child the chance to resume a sense of normalcy sooner.

Don’t Use Your Child as Leverage

We’re not saying that you should never ask for anything in a divorce, but you should do so in a way that doesn’t attempt to weaponize your children or put them in the middle. There are many areas in which you can negotiate with your ex-spouse, but try to avoid using your child as a tool for negotiation. You and your child should never be in the line of fire, even if you’re feeling angry or resentful toward your ex. Your child shouldn’t be privy to the conversation if you’re arguing about money or property. Use mediation or custody/visitation mediation if necessary, but don’t let your child feel the impact of your anger and hurt.

Make a Care Plan for Your Child(ren)

The marriage breakup will impact your children, and many of those impacts will be instantaneous. Make a care plan for your children, and include your ex in its creation, as this will help you both figure out who gets custody of children in divorce or how the children will split their time between your two. Care plans are designed to help parties involved in a divorce anticipate and plan for the needs of the child(ren). Your child needs to know that they aren’t to blame for the breakup and need help adjusting to the new normal. When creating your care plan, remember to consider everything your child might need: comfort, attention, reassurance, assistance, and even special consideration. You can even include the things that you, as the parent, need: extra time to do laundry, help with childcare, etc. After all, your needs are just as important as your child’s.

Allow Your Children to Participate in Decisions

As you start your divorce proceedings, try to include your children in the process wherever possible. This can be as simple as asking them for their opinion on paint colours for the living room or as involved as choosing a custody arrangement that suits both of your needs. When possible, allow your children to participate in the decision-making process, and you’ll help them feel more empowered and in control of their future. You have to make some decisions on your own, but wherever possible, let your kids help out and make their own choices. Your kids are growing up, and you’re taking steps to make sure that they feel empowered in the process.

Don’t Go to War Over the Big Stuff

We know that kids are keen observers and notice even the subtlest changes. You don’t want to war over every aspect of your divorce; let some things slide. Yes, your child needs stability, but the vast majority of things in their life will remain the same, no matter how nasty your divorce gets. If you two decide to get joint custody or you share custody, your child should be spending time with both of you. If you are getting a divorce, you also should decide what you and your ex-spouse should do with your child, like taking them to extracurricular activities, etc. If your kids are old enough to understand what’s happening, don’t hesitate to talk to them about the divorce. Your kids need to know what’s happening, and they need to know that it isn’t their fault.


Divorce is always terrible, but it doesn’t have to be devastating to your child. You can make the transition as smooth as possible with careful planning and a few simple steps. By making the breakup official as soon as possible, not using your child as leverage, and creating a care plan, you’ll reduce the uncertainty and stress your child is experiencing. Similarly, allowing your child to participate in decisions will empower them and let them know that their voice matters. Divorce is challenging, but your child doesn’t have to be a casualty in the process.

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