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How can parents make a separation or divorce as easy as possible on very young children?
Keep your separation and divorce as civil as possible. Strife between parents is felt deeply by kids. Whatever is driving your split, realize that is now going to be over. Focus on being actual grown-ups, not hurting each other, and, if the other spouse acts hurtfully, keeping to the high road and not responding. Aside from this path being best for your children, this has the added benefit of also being the most frugal choice you can make in terms of legal expenses. Angry people want to wage war in divorce. Fighting in a divorce means incurring legal fees at $300+ per hour. Money that goes into lawyer pockets does not go into either spouse’s pockets.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Divorce and Kids
A corollary to the above: keep the kids out of your disputes and divorce business. Don’t ask the kids to carry messages. Don’t disparage your ex to your kids. If your ex disparages you, don’t respond in kind. Instead, give your kids words and tools to keep themselves out of your issues with your ex. “Daddy/Mommy, I don’t like it when you say things that aren’t nice about Mommy/Daddy. I love you both, and want to be a kid. Stop saying those things.”
For each parent, make sure that the kids have a full gamut of clothes, school supplies, and other things at each parent’s house. If all kids have the stuff they need at each house, you minimize frustration at not getting the “underwear/diapers/school stuff/whatever” back when the kids have time with the other parent. Each household should be self-sufficiently able to care for the kids during the respective time the kids spend there. For the most part, neither party should be packing a bag for the kid to go to the other parent, unless it’s with current school stuff.
With young children, they’re going to want to see each parent. When you figure out how you’re going to share custody, keep the friction from exchanges to a minimum. If the kids go to day care or school, consider switching custody on pickup, as this minimizes exchanges between the two parties. Don’t be self-conscious about doing this. You’re not re-inventing the divorce wheel. Schools and daycares have seen this before a million times.
Lastly, start taking care of yourselves. If you’re not fit, start walking, join a gym or something else. If you need to socialize, join a club, or take up a hobby. Parents taking good care of themselves model appropriate self-care for their children, and are themselves in a better place to provide care and love.
Jeff Nichols writes about politics, family, and relationships. You can find more Quora posts here:
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