7 Ways to Put Kids First In Your Divorce

Putting your kids first throughout your divorce helps minimize the effects of divorce on their lives. By framing each decision you and your ex make through the lens of “What’s best for the kids?” you can help your kids feel secure and loved even though their family dynamic is shifting. 

“We carefully framed every topic we discussed through that one question: What’s best for Asher? It took on a variety of forms—What divorce method will be the least difficult for Asher? What custody arrangement will make Asher the happiest? What financial arrangement will provide best for Asher? What interpersonal relationship do we need to build to create the healthiest atmosphere for Asher? The answers to those questions were our answers, and the highest truth we needed. “ – Nikki DeBartolo 

How to Put Kids First in Divorce

When you and your partner present a united front and act as co-parents instead of ex-spouses, your kids will reap the benefits. There are many ways to prioritize your kids in a divorce. From the first discussions you have with them through the many milestones they’ll go through as the children of divorced parents, these are opportunities to flex your co-parenting muscles. 

  • Choose positivity. Be intentional in how you speak about the divorce, the challenges your family may be facing, and especially about the other parent. Encourage honesty in them by being open to their questions and comments. Address any of their fears with positivity by re-affirming your love for them and their importance.
  • Be honest, but use a filter. Your kids will feel valued and important when they are aware of what’s going on in their family. Of course, everything that you share with them should be age-appropriate and based on their emotional maturity. Don’t sugarcoat the truth, be clear and simple when explaining the divorce, new living situations, new partners and other changes you are helping your children navigate. 
  • Focus on the family. It’s important to make it clear that the divorce is not about the children in any way. Explain clearly that the marriage is ending but the family is not. In addition, National Family Solutions recommends encouraging your children that they’ll still be able to spend time with both parents. Keeping the focus on all the ways kids will still get to see their parents and do all the things they’ve always done will avoid some of the anxiety kids often feel around divorce. 
  • Form a parenting plan. Hopefully, you and your spouse are able to co-parent and work together to create a parenting plan that keeps the kids first. This parenting plan should cover custody schedules as well as things like communication with the non-custodial parent. An effective parenting plan puts kids’ needs first instead of yours and your ex-spouse’s.
  • Build a support system. After divorce, you may find yourself feeling alone. It can be easy to use your kids as a sounding board for how you’re feeling, but it’s important to keep them as separate from the divorce process as possible. Building a support system of friends, mentors, and counselors allow you to share your feelings and move forward without over-sharing with your kids. 
  • Keep an eye on your children’s behavior. Divorce is a process and even kids who respond well at first may experience some trouble adjusting later on. If you notice changes in their behavior, anxiety or depression, difficulty at school or changes to their sleeping or eating patterns, it may be time to seek professional help. 
  • Maintain consistent routines. Consistency is one of the easiest ways to help your kids adjust to divorce. Working with your co-parent to create a family schedule that’s consistent across houses can help kids move back and forth more easily. Think about things like setting aside time for homework, morning routines and bedtimes. By putting their schedules and needs first, whether that’s setting aside time for homework or maintaining consistent bedtimes between homes, kids are able to adjust to going back and forth. 

“We started sitting down and creating our co-parenting calendar each month, continually working together to make sure we never lost sight of Asher’s needs, even in our most hectic months.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo

The most effective ways to help your children through a divorce always start with putting the kids first. By focusing on co-parenting and communicating about what’s best for the kids, you and your ex-partner can both help kids adjust to the divorce. Being on the same page about what you’ll share with kids and how you’ll speak about the divorce and each other can help ensure the kids’ feelings are protected. With a little communication and intention, co-parents can put their kids first in their divorce.

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