When there are children involved in a divorce, parental care for those children must continue despite the marital split. If individuals cannot agree on when and how their children will be cared for, it is sometimes agreed upon during the legal proceedings. For instance, a parent who is working full time may only be able to care for his or her children on the weekends and on holidays. Perhaps the other parent has the children during the week.
If you’re not involved in a legal situation with your partner but you have children together, likely you’re trying to figure out between the two of you how to meet the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of your children even through the divorce. Whether you’re in a legal situation or not, there are going to have to be conversations, communication, and contact with the other parent for the sake of the children. Knowing how to do that in a way that keeps the children’s best interest in mind is at the heart of a gentle divorce.
Of course, divorces aren’t always gentle between parents, but they can be with respect to the children. Children can feel the impact of the divorce in a strong way, perhaps because it’s often a surprise for them. Although the parents themselves might have been talking about it for awhile, attending couples counseling, and reviewing the health of their relationship, children don’t find out about their parents separation until the decision has been made.
For this reason, one very important point that parents should keep in mind while they are divorcing is that although their marriage has dissolved, their role as parents have not. Many social organizations offer parenting classes to parents for this reason. Despite the fact that parents disagree about a variety of topics, they should find a way to agree upon the way that they are teaming up for the sake of their children.
Children need stability to anchor them during times of stress. Divorce can easily be a time of upheaval. However, if you and the other parent can make it work so that the schedules of your children remain the same, this will support their emotional stability. Furthermore, when parents are consistent in the way they relate to their children, including in the way they discipline and reward their children, it can keep life feeling familiar. Another way to stay consistent is to continue with the same schedules for bedtime, meals, and school. When life feels consistent, children feel safe.
It’s important for parents to think of the long-term with regard to the development of their children and visits with either parent. As children mature, they will have various needs that will change over time. For instance, when young boys become adolescents, it might be worthwhile for them to spend more time with their fathers. At the same time, when children are very young, it might be more nurturing for them to spend more time with their mother. Of course, when to visit depends upon the availability, ability, and willingness of each parent. Yet, parents can develop a co-parenting plan so that visits are planned out and take into consideration the fluctuating needs of the children.
One of the best ways for divorcing/divorced parents to do this is to take a parenting class. These classes can help parents understand how to best parent children after a separation. The Los Angeles Family Court Services has a list of parenting classes for each area of Los Angeles County. You can find that list here. Parents can also contact their local YMCA or YWCA, youth agencies, community agencies, and religious groups to find classes that can assist with co-parenting. Plus, because of the diversity of Los Angeles, many agencies will offer these classes in other languages.
Lastly, no matter what’s going on between parents, children should be reminded that they are loved. It’s essential that children know that they are not the cause of the divorce, and what they really need to know is that they will be loved and accepted by both parents regardless of what happens.