Divorce is going to affect the children involved. That is a fact that is inescapable. It is a basic instinct for kids to want their parents to be together. Even if they constantly see their parents fighting, they still want the two most important people in their lives to be nearby every day. Divorce changes the familiar dynamic that the child is accustomed to, which can majorly alter the world as the child knows it. For parents contemplating divorce, it is important to realize the impact the split will have on the kids. Managing this impact will help minimize its effects and make the transition a bit easier on the children.
Keep the Negativity Away from the Kids
Children have no place in the middle of arguments, legal discussions, or divorce proceedings, no matter what their age is. Seeing this kind of conflict between their parents (or the parents' representatives) make divorce that much more stressful. And it can have long-term effects on the child's relationship with one or both parents. The rule of thumb is to keep as much of the negativity as possible away from the kids. They are not the ones splitting up. Their parents are.
Try to Keep Day-to-Day Life as Normal as Possible
Most kids have a certain routine involved in their days and nights. Keeping to that routine, as much as possible, will give some stability to the situation. For example, if the child goes to bed at 8:00 PM on a school night, it should remain that way in the homes of both parents. Having one parent let the child stay up til 10:00 PM is disruptive. It can affect the child's school performance and relationship with both parents. From a child's perspective, knowing what is happening day to day, hour to hour is beneficial; consistency gives them some level of control in an otherwise chaotic situation.
Never Place the Child in the Middle
This covers two common problems divorcing parents deal with.
They don't want to speak with each other due to anger and other negative emotions.
They let that anger leak out when speaking to the child about the other parent.
When two people with children in common split, they still remain parents. They need to communicate directly with each other about the child, his or her schedule, and activities. They need to make cooperative decisions about certain situations. Using the child as a go-between for these communications is unacceptable. If ex-partners cannot communicate with each other amicably, emailing/texting/faxing or—if they absolutely must use a mediator—using another adult as a go-between are all better options than using the child as a messenger. A child should never be a sounding board for problems involving the other parent. Your child does not need to know you are angry that your ex-spouse is dating so soon after the break-up. Your child does not need the added pressure of choosing a side.
Consider Joint and Individual Therapy
There are going to be a lot of raw emotions involved for everyone involved, adults and kids alike. Being able to process those emotions is not going to be easy for everyone. Therapy is a good way to work through the emotions and turmoil of divorce, for both the parents and the kids.
The exact therapy set-up will differ to each situation. In some cases, the child should have access to private sessions with a therapist. Children and parents can participate in joint sessions also.