Many parents decide to divorce as summer approaches so they can take advantage of the school break to make post-divorce transitions. There are many other families, however, that make the break in the midst of the school year.
There are several reasons why this sometimes becomes a necessity. Many couples considering splitting decide to wait until after the holidays to break the news to their children. Others wait to take advantage of year-end job bonuses so they'll have the extra funds to cover attorney, moving and other related expenses. Still others are faced with unexpected circumstances which accelerate the decision to divorce.
Regardless, it's not the why that should be concerning us at this time -- it's the how. How are these parents going to approach their separation or divorce, and how will it affect their innocent children?
I, too, planned my separation mid-school year more than a decade ago. My son was eleven at the time. We told him a couple of days after Christmas but didn't make the physical split until February 1st.
Obviously school-year separations can be especially difficult for school-age children. Parents need to bend over backwards to minimize the changes and transitions in their child's life so as to keep school-related schedules, after-school activities, playtime with friends and other routines as much the same as possible.
My former husband and I chose to co-parent and each maintained a residence intentionally located within a mile or two of each other. Our son got off the school bus at one house or the other, with little disruption of his normal routine. At the end of the school year, one of his teachers came up to me saying she just learned that my husband and I split up in February. She said she was quite surprised because my son didn't skip a beat in school. He still maintained his straight As. You can't imagine how gratifying that was for me.
Little did I know then that a decade later, I would be writing a book and devoting my life to alerting parents about the pitfalls of divorce if their decisions are not child-centered.
My advice is simple, but not always easy. Put yourself in your child's place and feel the insecurity, fear, anxiety, guilt and shame that your child may be experiencing. Make decisions based on how he or she is going to look back and remember these next several years.
Here are some vital questions to ask yourself before making any decisions regarding divorce or separation when you have children:
- Are you putting their physical, emotional and psychological needs first?
- Are you respecting the fact that children innately love both parents and are wounded when one of them is disparaged, regardless of your personal perspective about it?
- Are you forcing your child to be a spy or go-between, taking on responsibilities that children should not bear?
- Are you asking your child to choose between loving Mom or Dad, or take sides in any way?
- Are you keeping their other parent from active participation in their life because you want to hurt your spouse?
These are destructive behaviors and decisions often made without considering the effects on the children who are inevitably scarred from the inside out. And they need not take place. It's not divorce per se that harms children, I firmly believe. It's the parent's approach to divorce that makes all the difference in the world. How are you approaching these challenges?
My mission is clear: to encourage parents to create a cooperative, peaceful child-centered divorce which will benefit the entire family for months, years and decades to come. My now grown son is proof that it can work successfully.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a divorce and relationship coach and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! The book provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For Rosalind's free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, free articles, coaching services or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to: childcentereddivorce.com.