There is a season to everything, even divorce. A study in Washington shows that there are two months out of the year when divorce filings appear to peak: March and August.
Several theories tried to explain this phenomenon but one stood out: March and August come after winter or summer holidays. Many couples go on some romantic vacation in a last-ditch effort to fix the marriage, thinking that the change of pace and scenery would re-ignite the romance and resolve any existing conflict. But then this false sense of expectations would soon lead to frustration and disappointment until ultimately, divorce feels like the next best move.
Separation is never easy, but it can be particularly hard during the holiday break, where kids are home from school and about to hear the biggest news of the year; for some, it’s the biggest news of their entire life.
As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all and demand to keep the child at least 50% (if not all) of the time. But for your kid, it’s never so much about spending which amount of time with whom, as it is about the fact that the two people they care about most aren’t together anymore. That’s a lot to take in for any kid.
They also won’t see the situation in numbers — they’ll see hurt, anger, tension, guilt, and an unwelcome change, which they will fixate on.
Your responsibility throughout this process is to make the experience as gentle and reassuring as possible. Seems like a feat, given all the other things you need to worry about, but we’ve got some tips to show you how:
Introduce change gradually
Spending time with their parents in two different homes, moving to a different neighborhood, or having a new partner can be a major change for any child. Try keeping everything else in their daily life unchanged, such as school, friends, hobbies, or any extracurricular activities. If changes are inevitable, the least that you can do is to introduce them gradually and allow your kid to adjust.
Cooperate with your spouse
Watching parents fight is distressing for any child. Decide with your ex-spouse on how you can work together to make the transition the least bit drastic (and violent) for them. Being able to communicate and work out a plan as two sensible adults sends a positive and very important message: there is nothing to worry about.
Practice open communication and reinforcement
The fact is, heated arguments can and will happen in front of the kids at one point or another. Kids, especially younger ones (3-5 years) tend to view conflict as their fault. Like it was the result of something they did, and they should feel responsible for it.
Remind them constantly that this is not the case. Try to show positive feelings toward the child’s relationship with the other parent, so they don’t have to feel like they should pick sides and the situation will feel less divisive.
Any divorce lawyer would tell you that the well-being of your child matters, not in terms of the law ruling in your favor, but to the quality of life you would have after. The key is to find that sweet spot between being honest and open with your kid and minimizing the emotional toll on them wherever you can.