In a recent article, a professor and department chair of sociology was asked what the best age would be for a person to get divorce. Her answer might surprise some: the worst age to get a divorce is “younger than five and older than fifteen.” Divorce will always hurt adults, but children are going through divorce too. When children are developing, life events like divorce can make a deep and lasting impression on them. So how do you support and help your child through divorce? One thing that’s important to remember is that children have very different developmental needs at different ages that can leave them vulnerable in different ways to divorce.
Kelly Clarkson recently revealed that she hired child psychologists in her divorce, citing her own experience of going through divorce as a child. “We want to do it right,” she said, speaking of her wish to spare her children some of the pain she suffered. This is often a desire for parents who lived through their parents’ messy divorces as children. Doing divorce right is a question with a lot more than one answer. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, and no such thing as perfect parenting when it comes to divorce. You can start with some assumptions however. One major assumption is that children will be harmed by conflict in divorce.
If you start with this assumption, you must decide on the right way to divorce for you and your spouse. As the airport safety instruction goes: “Secure your own oxygen mask before attending to children or other adults.” If you and your spouse can have a conflict free divorce and remain respectful of each other, this will go a long way towards reassuring your children and helping them to survive divorce. Choosing mediation for your divorce can help you do this. Mediation is a process that empowers both parties to have a say in their divorce by working out their priorities together with a neutral mediator. When parties are empowered to arrive at their own divorce settlement rather than fighting it out in court and submitting to the decision of a judge, there is less conflict because both parties have had a say in the outcome.
If you choose this process and have children, what happens next? How do you guide your children through divorce in an appropriate way for their age? The mediators at BCS combine legal and financial expertise with extensive psychoanalytical experience. We use a variety of psychological approaches including working with children’s developmental age and attachment needs. We often work with West Coast couples who may be dual earners, and/or from international backgrounds, with complex and busy lives. We see practical arrangements in divorce as inseparable from emotional considerations. Children are individuals whose needs differ, but a couple of rules of thumbs can dictate how you should plan your divorce depending on the age of the child:
Babies and toddlers up to 3 years old have a strong need for reliable routines, love and reassurance. Since they have little context or understanding of the world, having parents physically present or able to play with them and have regular contact is important.
Children between 3 and 5 are discovering their world but are very centered on themselves. They may have little understanding of the world of adult relationships and may think their parents are leaving them. They may need a lot of reassurance and regular contact with their parents.
Children between 6 and 8 are developing a moral sense and may start to believe that they are the cause of their parents’ divorce. They may need to be helped to understand the difference between their own world and their parents’ world while receiving a lot of reassurance from both parents.
Preteens between 8 and 12 might start to become their parents’ confidante. They can start to side with one parent and try very hard to be “helpful.” Parents should be careful not to burden the child with too much information about the divorce and inappropriately make the child into their friend and support sytem.
Adolescents between 9 and 18 might need more information and be invited to collaborate on schedules etc. They might begin acting out through behaviors involving their peers and dating. They need a degree of freedom and information about the divorce but should not be treated like it’s their responsibility.
These guidelines can help you draft schedules that allow the child to have the appropriate amount of time with each parent, and to plan the appropriate activities for their age group. It will also help you collaborate as parents to support your child and ensure they are protected from conflict and pain.
Who We Are and How We Can Help
We are caring, well-educated mediators who are skilled in applied financial mathematics, the law psychoanalysis, and game theory. We strive to efficiently comprehend your situation and its opportunities for sustainable and agreeable resolution. This may include a review of your parenting plan, spousal support The sooner you can resolve your conflict, the sooner you can begin to craft a sustainable future for you and your children. Our specially trained divorce mediator-accountants can also help reveal and investigate the proven financial facts of a divorce to make a full financial appraisal of your divorce and to suggest creative solutions for financial planning after divorce. Our high-level divorce mediation services are tailored to the needs of people with complex lives or divorces that may be difficult or protracted. We work with individuals from several cultures and countries, and often work with national and international child custody and relocation issues associated with divorce. We offer socially distanced remote mediations via Telephone, Zoom or Facetime. We are available 7 days a week and at urgent notice. Please contact us to see how we can help.