Divorce and Children: 4 Signs You Can’t Ignore

divorce and children

The fact that divorce is super common isn’t comforting when your family is going through it. At least as one of the adults, you have some control over what’s happening. For your kids, watching you and your partner split up – even if the divorce is amicable, or ends a really contentious marriage – is probably at least a little traumatic.

So it’s totally normal to notice some changes in your kids during the months following a divorce. You’re dealing with a seismic shift in your own life, so things are changing for you too. But this can be a really scary and anxious time for children of all ages, and they’re extra vulnerable right after a divorce. Be on the lookout for these four potentially serious warning signs.

Their Behavior is Regressing

Regression just means that a kid is returning to a previous stage of development and behaving “younger” than they are. For example, a 4-year-old who has been potty trained for a year might regress and start having toilet accidents after her parents divorce. A child might also return to sucking his thumb or needing to sleep with a nightlight after having previously given up those behaviors.

If your child displays some regression, it could be a sign that she feels anxious and wants to go back to an earlier time when she felt safer. Offering plenty of affection and support, and not pushing her to “grow back up” too quickly, should help your child eventually feel ready to progress again. But if the regression lasts for more than a month or is very severe, contact your pediatrician.

They’re Unusually Depressed or Anxious

Feeling sad and nervous is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to divorce and children. This event will inevitably change things, and kids are rarely happy about that.

Depression and anxiety that interferes with your child’s ability to function, however, isn’t normal. For example, a severely depressed child might sleep much more than usual, seem disinterested in things he used to love and let his grades slip. An anxious kid might be unusually clingy, throw temper tantrums and become resistant about going to school. Take action if you notice behavior that could have a lasting negative impact on his health, friendships or academic career.

They’re Hurting Themselves

Kids who are in emotional turmoil sometimes express that pain by hurting themselves. Take seriously any signs of self-harm. These may include a child cutting, scratching or picking at her skin; burning herself; disordered eating (restricting food intake, binging and/or purging) and, in older children, drug and alcohol use. Immediately consult a school psychologist and your pediatrician if you notice signs of self-harm.

Another thing to watch for with divorce and children is faked or exaggerated illnesses or injuries. Sometimes a kid who wants to bring her divorced parents back together, or needs more attention than she’s getting, will try this ploy. That doesn’t mean you should assume every injury is fake, of course – but keep it in mind.

They’re Growing Up Too Fast

Having your child step up and help you more might sound like a dream, but some kids feel overly responsible for their parents after a divorce. Your child might try to fill in for the absent parent to make you happy or out of worry that the household will fall apart without a second adult around. Some newly divorced parents make the mistake of leaning too heavily on their kids for support, treating them like therapists or friends instead of children.

Divorce is already hard enough. Don’t let your child feel responsible for taking care of you. By all means, encourage your kids to do age-appropriate chores and take on tasks that they can manage! Just be careful to make sure they know that you’re the adult and will take care of things so they can still focus on being kids.

Navigating Joint Custody and Father’s Day

father's day

It might take a few months, or even longer, but parents and kids will get used to a new normal after divorce. The kids will become accustomed to spending time with one parent at a time, and you and your ex will adjust too. But even when you sort out the logistics of everyday life post-divorce, certain holidays may always be a source of tension. With Father’s Day and Mother’s Day approaching, talking now about what will happen on these special days is an important part of making them run smoothly.

Joint Custody and Father’s Day: Potential Pitfalls

Especially if this coming Father’s Day is your family’s first since the divorce, having a happy and loving day with your kids probably feels really important. Hopefully that’s exactly what will happen, but it’s important to be mindful about all the potential obstacles that your family will have to navigate.

First, there’s the legal side. Your custody agreement will factor into how you handle scheduling these holidays. It’s not just up to your and your ex to decide what happens, so check that agreement first.

Next, think about your expectations for this special day. Father’s Day probably seems even more important now that you’re not with the kids every day, but expecting a perfect day of family bonding is probably not realistic. Your kids might be grumpy, the weather could be bad – any number of things could throw a wrench in the plans. Stay flexible.

And if you’re not able to get custody for Father’s Day, think ahead about what you can do on that day instead. Plan a full slate of fun and distracting activities with childless friends, or opt for a low-key day at home if you think seeing families out and about will be too hard.

Divorced parents deal with these issues around Mother’s Day, too. We’re focused on joint custody and Father’s Day today, but these same pitfalls and strategies are just as relevant to moms who aren’t scheduled to have custody on Mother’s Day.

Talking to Your Ex About Holidays

Who gets custody on a special holiday is a hotly contested issue between some divorced parents. This is an emotional issue, and being separated from your kids on a day when you’re supposed to be together can cause tension between your and your ex. It’s imperative that you don’t let that happen, as adding conflict to your relationship will hurt the kids.

Luckily, you can both understand the significance of these parent-specific holidays. One good strategy to get access to your kids when they’re scheduled to be with their other parent is to offer an even exchange. If the kids can be with you on Father’s Day, your ex can have them on Mother’s Day or on another important date of her choosing.

If your relationship with your co-parent is really strained, put your request in an email or ask a trusted family member to serve as a go between. Your ex still disagrees to your request for custody that day? Suggest the whole family gets together for a meal so you can at least see the kids for part of the day.

Talking to Your Kids About Holidays

If your discussions about joint custody and Father’s Day go nowhere, you’ll have to prepare yourself and your kids to be apart on this day. The best strategy? Ignore what the calendar says and establish your own [Last Name] Family Father’s Day, on a weekend when you have custody.

Your kids might ask about why they won’t see you on Father’s Day, especially when they notice their friends are spending the day with their dads. Be honest and sympathetic, making sure not to blame your ex for the scheduling. Say something like, “I’m disappointed too, but it’s your weekend to be with mom and it’s important that we stick to that agreement. We’re going to celebrate on [date] instead!” If possible, make a plan to video chat with the kids on Father’s Day so you can share a meal or read a book together, even if you can’t be physically together.

Dating After Divorce: When To Tell The Kids

2houses - web and mobile app for divorce with kids - telling the kids you're dating someone else

I have been divorced for about three years. I have two teenagers, 13 (a son) and 15 (a daughter). They both live with me, although their father lives in the next town and my son often stays with him. I have just started to date someone. When should I tell my kids that I am dating and when should I introduce them to this new person in my life?

Answer:It’s advisable to tell them you’re dating as you begin to do so. Teens don’t want to feel out of the loop, and letting them know you will begin dating will assist them to manage the changes in their emotional lives. It’s important to send some key messages in that conversation: I’m taking this dating thing slow, I’ll typically date in a way that will not take away from our time together as a family, you’ll be the first to know if I ever develop any genuine feelings for anyone.

How much you want to discuss your date with your children depends on your relationship with them. Be cautious not to be overly excited about dating because your teens are about to get to that stage themselves and you want to preserve the excitement and healthy conversations about dating for them. However, you may have a child who wants to hear some simple things about how the date went and it’s okay to share that information, but beware that you’re not using your children as your best friend.

Introductions should be reserved for when you feel the relationship has potential. Be forwarned that children can develop close attachments quickly so you don’t want your children to develop a meaningful relationship with your man until you know he’s the one and sticking around. When you find someone you like, have a light introduction, perhaps quick dinner and a movie/sporting event just to make sure you feel they interact well and to help your kids feel like they are in the loop. After that, you can continue to have some limited, pleasant times together but they should be far and few between so that your kids aren’t forming any attachments. Once you feel that engagement or some form of long term committment is upon you, that’s when you begin to develop this new enmeshed family concept. That will take a lot of time and love. Be sure to have many open conversations along the way about what family means to you and your kids and how your family system might change with another man in your life but it’ll never change the special, deep relationship you have with your kids.

by M. Gary Neuman

The difference between estrangement and parental alienation syndrome

2houses - Web and mobile app for divorce with kids - The difference between estrangement parental alienation syndrome

Parental Alienation is defined as the deliberate attempt by one parent to distance his/her children from the other parent.

An example would be the mother who shares too much information about the father’s affair with the children in a covert attempt to cause the children to harbor ill will toward the father.

A mother or father may wish to alienate the children to pay back for the pain experienced due to an unwanted divorce. They may attempt to alienate the children due to mental illness that keeps the parent from putting her/his children’s best interest before their own. Thereasons parents participate in Parental Alienation are numerous and costly.

On the other hand, estrangement follows multiple conflicts and blowouts between parent and child, says relationship expert Irina Firstein. “There are extremely hurt feelings,” she says. “There are feelings of betrayal and of disappointment.”

The father who leaves the family for another woman, neglects time with his children and dismisses the harm done to his children is likely to become estranged from them. It is fair to say that no one responds positively to poor treatment, least of all children.

PAS results from a parent actively working at causing hard feelings between a child and parent. Estrangement results from a parent behaving badly toward his/her children which, in return causes the children to cut off contact.

It isn’t uncommon for a parent who is estranged from his/her children to blame the other parent of PAS. It is easier to blame others for bad behavior than to accept and acknowledge bad behavior.

How does one tell the difference between a parent who is a victim of PAS and one that is estranged due to bad behavior?

…Read More…

By , About.com Guide

Starting a New Life After Divorce: When and How to Introduce a New Partner to Your Children

after divorce - 2houses

As time passes after your divorce, it’s very likely that you’ll meet someone who becomes an important part of your life and you start considering a future with. This also means introducing the new partner to your children. When and how you approach this can mean the difference between a mess and an easier incorporation. Here are some tips to help the introductions go smoothly.

The When

1. Be Honest With Yourself

When you’re considering whether or not to introduce a new romantic partner to your children, it’s important to take an honest look at the relationship and where it’s likely heading. If you’re just having fun and enjoying the person’s company but you know there’s not really long-term potential there, it’s probably best to leave the kids out of it.

2. Talk With the New Person First

If you’re ready to introduce a potential new spouse to your kids, it’s a good idea to talk to that person first. Even if your children like this person, they may still have some negative emotions and thoughts about someone new taking such a permanent place in your life. It’s not uncommon for children to feel like they’re being replaced by a “new family” or to feel a new wave of emotions at the finality of Mom and Dad not getting back together.

3. Give Your Ex a Heads Up

You certainly don’t have to give your ex every detail of your love life after divorce. But if things are serious enough you’re considering introductions to your children, it’s a courtesy to let your ex know. Your children are almost definitely going to bring this up during their time with the other parent. Having already discussed it beforehand can make sure you and your ex-spouse are on the same page for how to present this new change and handle the children’s responses. If you’re uncomfortable — or just too busy — having the conversation face-to-face, using the messaging feature on 2houses lets you fit this conversation into your schedule. It also gives you the chance to spend some time drafting and rewriting your message so there aren’t any miscommunications or issues.

The How

1. Consider the Timing

While it’s sometimes hard to remember with our responsibility-filled adult lives, children have stress too. Introducing a new partner to your children when they’ve had a long day of school and activities and hungry and past bedtime, probably isn’t going to go over well. Try to choose a time where they’re relaxed, well rested and fed and in a good mood.

2. Go for Neutral Ground

Introducing someone new to your kids in their home can be a little bit too much to handle. It can feel like this person is already encroaching on their space and relationship with you. Instead, consider doing the meet-and-greet somewhere like a playground or kid-friendly restaurant where the kids can escape to their own space if they need to.

3. Follow Up With Them Afterward

Even if the introduction went better than you could have hoped, it’s still a good idea to check in on the kids by yourself. They might have some thoughts or emotions they need to express they don’t feel comfortable sharing with the other person present. Doing this also ensures the children know you’re still putting their feelings first.

No matter how well introducing a new partner to your children seem to go, remember to go slow and give it time. Adding someone into the family dynamic means adjustments for everyone. Keeping the lines of communication open between your children, your new partner and your co-parent can go a long way to smoothing the transition.

Divorce Announcement Wording Tips for Your Children

divorce announcement wording - 2houses

Talking to your children about divorce is never easy. Most spouses are going through an emotionally challenging time and want to minimize the stress on children. Achieving this is possible with care and attention throughout the divorce process, beginning with the first conversations you have as a family about your separation.

One way to make those chats as supportive as possible is to use specific language. Certain words are often more nurturing to children, and send the right message at a time when kids are particularly vulnerable. Encouraging words can help ease the transition for your entire family.

Use “We” Instead of “I”

Even if you and your spouse disagree on many issues, it helps if you can be united when speaking to your children. Breaking the news about separation or divorce should be done by both spouses together, with as little hint about animosity or anger as possible. Using “we” reinforces this idea of stability to your children, who are just learning of your intent to live apart.

Be Selective in Choosing Information

Some parents flood their children with information in the first conversation, in an attempt to proactively answer all of their questions. This can overwhelm the child, who may or may not have had an inkling of what was to come. Start with the basics. Remaining open to questions after you tell your children is important, as that’s when you will have a better idea of how they perceive the situation.

Stay Focused on Your Child

Tell the children how the change in the family will affect their lives. For example, when providing details, say things like, “we’ll be taking care of you together, but we will live in two different homes.”, “Our change in family life won’t affect your school or your friends.” Before the conversation, make a list of what your children currently enjoy doing and how that might change after the divorce.

Reassure Them It’s Not Their Fault

Often children think they may be responsible for their parents’ divorce. Telling them that they did nothing wrong is important, so they can feel somewhat at ease with what’s happening. Over time, they will probably have more questions about why you and your spouse have chosen to end your marriage, and you may want to listen closely to their worries about the root causes of the event.

Talk to Them About the Plan

For many parents, the main objective is to help their children feel secure in the face of divorce. Give them a plan as early as possible, so they know their parents still love them and will look after their needs. Use phrasing like, “your father and I,” “your mother and I,” and “our family,” when describing how things will unfold. You can also say, “we will both always be here for you,” to reinforce this idea of consistency.

Most children will remember this conversation for many years to come. It can set up the emotional road for both the children and the parents, as they embark on divorce or separation. Every parent makes mistakes, but by taking care with what you say and how you communicate with your spouse, you can support your children over the long term. Stay open and supportive when talking and listening to all members of your family.

Co-Parenting Communication Tools: Our Selection of Books to Explain Divorce to Children

co-parenting books - 2houses

When co-parents decide to end their relationship, it is not always easy to know how to tell the children. For families, the divorce process involves an ongoing conversation. The adjustment period for adults and children is uncharted territory and won’t be without bumps along the way.

Several authors have tried to make the transition easier with guides to talking to your kids about divorce. Suitable for a variety of ages, these volumes give you and your children some ways to deal with the emotions that come with a change to their way of life. You can read many of these with your kids. Or offer them as a resource to your children while they begin to make sense of these changes.

“Dinosaurs Divorce” by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (1988)

It can be tough for preschoolers and very young children to understand divorce, especially if they don’t know anyone else who’s going through it. In “Dinosaurs Divorce,” the prehistoric character is navigating the same territory as the child. The young dinosaur talks about some things that may happen after divorce, such as around the holidays and when living arrangements change.

“Two Homes” by Claire Masurel (2003)

The concept behind “Two Homes” is pretty simple: a seven-year-old boy figures that, with his parents living separately, he will have more of everything he loves. Two places to call home, two bedrooms, two kitchens and with family always nearby. This takes a positive approach to new living arrangements in order for kids to gain a different perspective on what can be a difficult period of time.

“Divorce Is Not the End of the World” by Zoe and Evan Stern (2008)

This book, aimed at older children over the age of about eight, was written by teenagers who have experienced divorce. It is practical as well as sensitive, addressing common emotions kids go through during transition. It talks about how day-to-day life might change, with the introduction of step-siblings and stepparents, and homes with different rules.

“A Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parents’ Divorce” by Nancy Holyoke (2009)

Laid out a bit like a workbook, the “Smart Girl’s Guide” acknowledges that life can change many times for the child of divorce. There is often the initial separation, then remarriage. Packed with advice from other preteens, the book also makes learning fun with quizzes and easy-to-understand tips. Check out the “Girl’s Bill of Rights” that’s included as a handy cut-out.

“It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear” by Vicki Lansky (1997)

As is evidenced by the title, “Koko Bear” is about dealing with the emotions of divorce. Written for three to seven-year-olds who may not yet be used to expressing how they feel. The book is as much a guide for parents as children. With this volume, you can help pinpoint what your child is feeling and help them to recognize and address those emotions in themselves.

Divorce is often a challenging transition for parents and children. It’s an uncertain time that comes with many unknowns. For children who desire a sense of security and predictability, it may be particularly stressful. These books are designed to help open the lines of communication so children know that no matter what happens, their parents have their well-being as their top priority.


Why making your children into “messengers” does not work….

messengers - 2houses

There might be a great temptation to entrust your child with messages – practical ones, or some other kind – that you want to convey to the other parent. This is tempting because it is easy…. Don’t forget to tell your father (your mother) that…. It is equally tempting to believe children’s messages, or what children tell you about their experiences with the other parent… It’s comforting to think that we can have “full confidence” in the words of our child.

We forget that children, like everyone else, are beings under construction. They may tend towards honesty and impeccable integrity, but these are not always fully imprinted, and it is precisely our role as adults to guide them on the journey that leads there. Transparency, honesty, discernment, and real awareness of what is happening are not innate, they are learned.

Moreover, the messengers, unwittingly in most cases, “load” the messages with emotions, interpretations which are either their own, or something they believe they saw in the parent in question. The message as delivered might be quite far from reality. Children unconsciously use the wounded places of their parents, who take pleasure in saying or hearing bad things about the other (it might be difficult to admit it, but deep down, we know that this part exists, taking pleasure like that). More subtly, it may be an interpretation of the attitude of the child, for example: I found Paul sad and tired when I took him back from his father… there is a great temptation (which builds resentment ) to blame the father immediately without going to the source of the problem.

The danger here is twofold: parents are comforted in their rejection of one another, and as a result of their conflict, the children are unsettled and insecure: unsettled and insecure because they unwillingly become involved in the conflict of their parents, and therefore become direct actors in that “framework”, while on the contrary they need to evolve in a predetermined frame of reference…

It is therefore of utmost importance that parents communicate directly, and ask questions directly rather than using, or simply accepting, their children as a relay.

There are many divorced parents who, in good faith, try to do the best they can for the happiness of their children, but whose relationship with the other parent is limited to the exchange of practical information. The transmission of “everything else”, that is to say, how the children are growing and developing when they are with the other parent (which in joint custody can be half the time ) is left to the children, with the biases and risks mentioned.

To secure the children and the peace of the parents, it is urgent to promote all means allowing them to talk directly, calmly and without judgment about the moods of their children, the facts that have struck them, or the atmosphere in which they live…. all these elements are non-factual and yet critical if parents want to provide a common, secure and stabilized framework for their children.

Why I Finally Stopped Lying To My Teenage Son About Dating

dating after divorce and telling your children - éhouses

I have an only child. He’s smart, funny, and wise beyond his years. I was 25 years old when I gave birth to him. I looked into his eyes as they handed him to me and I knew not only would he forever be my only child, he would also be the most important man in my life forever. That fact has never changed.

As his father’s work took him further away from home, the bond between mother and son grew stronger until my then-husband looked at us during a rare family dinner and said, “You two act as if I don’t even exist. You have your own little world.”

It was true. Not only do my son and I look alike, we have the same personality. Fire and passion run deep in us both. So as the marriage fell apart and my ex saw us even less frequently, our son shifted into what he considered his role of “Man of the House.” And, in one of many mistakes I’ve made in parenting, I let him.

Territorial and jealous, he was now suspicious of any man that gave me an approving glance or flirted with me. “How can that guy look at you like that? You are my mother!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that angry remark from my son I wouldn’t be a struggling single mother any more.

Rather than confronting the issue, I chose to skirt it. For over two years I didn’t take phone calls when my son was nearby, my smart phone address book is full of bogus names that I used instead of the real names of the men that were interested in me. It became a bit tricky keeping track of “Bill” who was filed under “Barbara” vs the real Bill, my pest control guy. Although the latter did find it amusing when I sent him a text him asking what would happen if I was a bad girl. He replied that his contract only covered mischevious rodents, not their homeowners.
I felt as if I was having an affair that I was keeping from my son. My life was filled with lies of business meetings that were in reality were dates, supposed friends that were actually lovers, and made-up stories of boring nights on the couch alone while he was with his Dad. I remember sitting with the child psychologist as he was trying to explain what our son was going through. One a scale of 1 to 10, his discomfort level of seeing his father with another woman was at a 2, but for me, he chose an 11. Our son could not even discuss the idea of a man dating me without tears erupting. Tears flowed for me as well when I heard this news. As a mother, I knew what I had to do.

I gave up dating and any chance of a normal relationship. It was just too hard. I figured in a few years when he got older and interested in girls himself, I would broach the subject again. That was, until his father stepped in.

My ex-husband and I have what I consider a healthy divorced parenting relationship. We put our son first and have gotten past the hurt and anger that filled the last years of our marriage and first year apart. I also still consider him a confidant. He knows that it’s been difficult and at times lonely for me, which is why he sat me down a few months ago and said, “You need to start dating again, and you need to be upfront with him about it.” I protested that it was impossible. “He won’t be able to handle it,” I assured him. “Then we will tell him together, and I will give my blessing. Angela, you must do this. It’s not healthy for either of you.”

I wish that I could say our son’s reaction was positive. It wasn’t. He didn’t understand why I needed anyone else. Wasn’t I happy with the way our life was? “Yes,” I assured him, “But I need a social life and interaction with other adults. I needed to stare across the table at a beautiful man, one that was not wearing braces.

And so I started, cautiously, being honest regarding my whereabouts. Only a few weeks ago did I admit to having a “date.” My hands were shaking when I did so. He got quiet. “Mom, promise me you won’t… you know. I just worry about someone taking advantage of you.”

I stopped the car. “Sweetheart, I promise, I value being your Mother far too much to ever let anyone harm me. You have nothing to worry about.”

I saw his anxiety soften.

My son has only a few short years left under my care before he goes out to make his own way in the world. And while I know I shouldn’t sacrifice my life during those years, I also know that it is my responsibility to give him peace of mind.

I’m ok with that. He has nothing to worry about.

by  (source: HuffingtonPost.com)