When children are part of a New Mexico divorce, things immediately become more complicated. As a parent, you naturally want to calm your child’s worries, but it can be difficult to tell what your child actually knows about divorce. Their exposure so far in life may be limited to what they have heard from friends or have seen on TV, which will not reflect the reality of every situation.
Whether your child knows a lot about divorce or not, it’s not surprising if he or she develops some fears about what it will do to the family, and you can work to debunk those fears before they truly take hold. To get a head start, here are some of the most common fears children experience when they learn their parents are divorcing and what you can do about them.
“My parents hate each other now”
If your divorce has been especially terse, your child may be worried that the rift in the family will never be bridged. When co-parents are not watching how they communicate when the kids are around, children may witness things they shouldn’t, such as heated arguments and bad-mouthing. This can lead them to believe that the conflict between their parents will go on forever, and if the conflict has spread to extended family, the children may worry about their relationships with other relatives, too.
As soon as you decide to separate, minimizing the conflict between yourself and your co-parent needs to take priority, especially in front of your children. When you show your children a united front, they won’t feel as if the divorce is the end of the family. While you probably won’t be completely conflict-free, stick to a solid parenting plan and use tools to help you and your co-parent navigate discord. This will also give your children a better example and the ability to feel secure in their relationships with both parents.
“I have to choose between my parents”
Parenting time schedules can be complicated and confusing even for adults, so children naturally wonder how the schedule will impact the family, too. Some children become concerned that they will have to choose between their parents, and this fear can become more intense if they are guilt-tripped by one parent when they express that they miss the other parent.
Your children should never feel as if they have to be on one parent’s “side.” Even though your previous relationship with your co-parent is over, your children’s relationship with him or her should remain intact. When your child mentions that he or she misses the other parent, respond positively. If your child display worries about the time they will be allowed to spend with the other parent, don’t include negativity about the other parent in your response. It’s only natural for a child to miss a parent, and your child will experience less anxiety when he or she is allowed to speak openly about both homes.
“I caused the divorce”
Children are generally not able to understand the adult reasons behind the end of a relationship, so they may place the blame on themselves. This can occur in children of any age and will affect their self-esteem and self-image.
This particular fear can be combated by you in many ways. One popular way to handle it is by you and your co-parent sitting down with your children together and explaining the divorce in a way that’s appropriate and that they can understand. Let them ask questions and give them answers that are as honest as they can be given your children’s ages. The more they understand, the less likely they are to blame themselves.
Your children will likely experience some worry or anxiety when they learn about your divorce, but you can help combat those fears by being mindful and proactive. Keep your children in your focus as you divorce so they are negatively impacted as minimally as possible.