The ugly D word: Divorce. Nobody walks down the aisle thinking that one day they will be divorcing the person they are about to marry. Unfortunately, many couples in Oklahoma do eventually divorce. Close to 40% of adults in Oklahoma who have ever been married have also divorced. We all know that divorce is difficult. It is difficult for both parties. It is even more difficult for the children. Divorce is actually quite traumatic for children involved.
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service actually offers a workshop to help divorcing couples learn ways to lessen the trauma for their children. I teach this class in Lincoln County, and I wanted to share a little about it.
9 out of 10 parents unintentionally make their divorce harder for their children. Here are a few things to consider if you are going through a divorce. These are things to NOT do:
1) Do not use the children to get back at their other parent. This is like hitting rocks with a baseball bat. Sure, the rocks fly, but the bat is damaged as well… sometimes beyond repair.
2) Do not make plans with your children and then break them. This could cause or increase feelings of abandonment, which can be linked to severe mental health problems.
3) Do not scream and fight with each other in front of the kids.This creates stress and anxiety for children, which can lead to many physical and mental health problems. Children love both of their parents and don’t want to hear bad things about either of them.
4) Do not ask the kids to choose. Even if your child’s other parent was horrible to you, they are still a part of your child. Hurting your ex-spouse by keeping the kids from him/her hurts your children as well. (Obvious exceptions include drug use or trafficking, abuse, sexual deviance or violence. Keep your kids safe no matter what.)
5) Do not talk to the kids about your troubles. They are simply not old enough or mature enough to deal with that. They will want to help you, but this won’t help anyone. If you need someone to talk to, seek help from another adult (friend, relative, or professional) Let kids be kids.
6) If you need to change visitation schedules, try your best to work that out with your ex. Be flexible when you can, and your ex-spouse will be more likely to be flexible when you need it.
7) Do not send a new boyfriend/girlfriend to pick the kids up or babysit. Your kids want to see YOU, not someone else.
8) Do not ask your children to deliver messages to their other parent. This puts them in a very awkward position, and it is much more likely that the message will not be delivered properly.
9) Do not pump the kids for information about their other parent. This may make them feel that they are having to choose, or betraying their other parent. It also takes time away from more important things like talking to your kids about their day and what is important to them.
10) Do not focus on what you dislike about your ex-partner. Instead, direct your energy toward benefiting your kids.
If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, and are interested in more information on this subject, please contact your County Extension Office. If you are unsure how to find the extension office, leave a comment or send an email to me. I am more than happy to help you find the contact information!