You have two young kids, both of whom are still in grade school. You and your spouse have decided to call off your marriage. It was a tough choice, but you see no way around it.
Naturally, you may be focused on your spouse, your assets, the paperwork and other things of this nature. These are all important, but don’t forget to consider your kids. With every decision that you make, every step of the way, remember these things that your kids don’t want you to do — whether they have the guts to tell you or not.
1. Don’t force them to relay messages to your spouse.
This is your situation, not something your kids chose. You may not want to talk to your spouse, since you two have already separated. That’s fine, but you need to find a way to send messages and communicate that doesn’t involve the kids — like email or text.
2. Don’t act like your kids are possessions or obligations.
They want to know that you love them. Don’t complain about time you’ll have to spend with them or the money they may be costing you. Don’t negotiate with your kids and custody time just like you do with the rest of your assets. While you may have some of these concerns, voice them to your spouse alone, not in front of the kids.
3. Don’t make them pick.
If your kids are old enough, they may have opinions about where they want to live. In some cases, their own preferences and desires can weigh heavily in court. It’s good to get this input so that the child custody agreement is one that they like.
That said, don’t make them feel like they’re picking between you and your spouse. Clearly, they’d like to spend time with both of you. Don’t make them feel guilty about their decisions.
4. Don’t deny them scheduling flexibility.
Yes, having a set schedule is helpful, but you don’t want kids to feel trapped. Try to work some flexibility into the child custody agreement so that they can do what they want, when they want.
5. Don’t make them feel like strangers in their own homes.
Do everything you can to make sure the kids feel like they are wanted and that they belong. In some cases, this can be as simple as having some of their possessions at both homes so they feel like they really live at each house. This feeling of belonging is very important to kids.
Keep these five things in mind as you and your spouse work on the divorce, your parenting plan, and your child custody agreement. At the same time, always be sure you know your rights as a parent and the rights of your children.