They say that divorce is hardest on the children. I don't necessarily think that's true - I think it would be much harder on the people that once loved each other but are now saying goodbye to their marriage. But it's hard on us kids too, especially when we have no idea what's going on.
My parents separated two and a half years ago. When I was told my parents were getting a divorce (on a hot night when I was in the middle of doing my math homework), I was shocked and upset. Of course I was. And if I could go back, I would do some things a little bit differently. So here a few things that I think have worked well - and a few things that would have made adjusting to divorce a little bit easier, for both my parents and I.
1. Make a plan and stick to it.
For the parent that your child won't be living with, pick a day. Any day (as long as you're both free) and set that day aside - that's the day you'll be seeing each other every week, for breakfast, or lunch or dinner ... a walk in the park, shopping at the mall ... it doesn't matter what you do, or for how long. But on that day, rain or shine, you will spend time together. This consistency is important for maintaining your closeness when living apart and will give both the parent and the child a sense of comfort in knowing that they'll see each other often.
2. Discuss the holidays well in advance.
Will your child be spending half of Thanksgiving, half of their birthday, half of Christmas with one parent and the other half with the other parent? Or will your child be spending Thanksgiving and Boxing Day with you, and Christmas and their birthday with your ex-partner? Or, will they be spending the day before each of the holidays with you, and the actual holidays with the other parent?&
This year, I ate breakfast with my father on my birthday, and spent the rest of the day with my mother, then spent Christmas breakfast with my mother, and the rest of the day with my father. While it's nice to be able to spend time with them both on the holidays, there's always the feeling of being rushed - having a limited time with one parent, before you need to be with the other. Regardless of how you split it up, there should be a plan in place so that everyone is on the same page and no one gets slighted.
3. Discuss your new partner with your child.
So you're dating again? That's great, but make sure to discuss what this means for your child, down to specifics. Will they be expected to buy gifts over the holidays for your new partner? If so, a "token" gift, like a box of chocolates, or will they be expected to put as much thought into their gift as they do for yours? What do they call them? Are they going to be spending time alone with them, or just when you're around? Are they allowed to treat them like they would you (ask them for money/a ride/to help with homework)?
This year, I found it really confusing to know what to buy my father's partner for Christmas, because I had only seen him on a handful of occasions. I didn't know what was expected of me, which made it hard to know what exactly to buy. There should be an open dialogue about even the smallest of things.
4. Discuss who is responsible for what and let your child know.
Sort out who is responsible for what (logistically, speaking). Who will be driving your child to soccer practice each week, going to PTA meetings, parent/teacher conferences, picking your child up from sleepovers, and paying for school supplies? Let your child know what you decide, in order to eliminate confusion.
5. Have one set of rules in both homes.
Is curfew 11pm at one house? Well, then it's 11pm at the other house as well. Having two very different sets of rules creates confusion, and also compares the two parents together. The more lax parent becoming the "fun" parent, and the other parent the "boring" one.
6. Talk about your divorce.
Yes, it's awkward, but do it anyway. Talk about how one of you is moving out, who the child will be spending most of their time with, when they'll see the other parent, and any other arrangements which will impact upon their life.
-By Emi Beth