While the decision to divorce may not have been yours, if you have children you must put yourself in their shoes with each step you take in the divorce process. How you react has the potential to affect your long-term relationship with your child(ren). 

First, you need to separate negative emotions you may be feeling toward your ex, from the fact that children love both parents. Avoid making negative comments about the other parent in front of children. They are a product of both of their parents. If you (or others) make negative comments about the other parent, the children can feel that the criticism includes them. Avoiding destructive language will help your children to adjust to a post-divorce life and help you as you move toward developing a workable co-parenting plan. While it is important to protect your parental rights, you must keep your child’s best interests top of mind. Here are some other tips:

Don’t give in to provocation

If your ex- is drumming up drama or spreading false claims (asking for a hair sample to insinuate possible drug use), your blood may boil. If you respond with an angry outburst, you will be doing exactly what your ex- hopes for and this could lead to evidence (texts or Facebook posts) that show you have a temper.

It’s best to ignore these attempts. Take several deep breathes or go for a run or walk to clear your head. Never send the immediate text or email that you draft. Hold onto it and review/edit it the next day.

Kids don’t have to be in the know

You do not need to share every detail of the divorce. Discussions should be geared toward assuring the child that he/she is not losing a parent, and that they will still be loved and cared for, with language appropriate for the age and maturity level of each child. Even a teenager does not need to know about an affair or some other possible marital misconduct.

It’s also never alright to use your kids to try to get an upper hand by turning children against their other parent or doing things to become their favorite. These tactics can easily backfire and they are never in the best interests of children.

Retain as much agency over your situation as possible

Start the co-parenting relationship on the right foot by negotiating the terms of your parenting plan to fit your unique family needs. The more you can iron out ahead of time, the less that remains for a judge to decide.