Child Centered Divorce Tips
In this episode we cover child centered divorce tips so you can restore a coparenting relationship for the best interest of your children.
If you're contemplating how to plan for or respond to a divorce, be sure to listen to this episode first! For legal assistance or mediation services, contact us at (630) 891-2478 or at www.birtlaw.com.
To Listen to Episode 13, CLICK HERE.
[00:00] Erin Birt: Welcome to the Restorative Divorce podcast, where we focus on all things divorce and parenting related. To help you find clarity, stay informed, and stay out of family court. With 20 plus years of family law experience, our attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, has seen too many times how family court will negatively impact your health, your relationship with your kids, and your wallet. This podcast aims to turn that around and empower our listeners to take back control of their family law process and their lives by working with divorced professionals that seek to help and not hurt. Our goal is to provide you with expert tips that you can implement today to restore your finances, emotional well being and coparenting skills. Of course, our team at Birtlaw.com is always here to customize a restorative divorce plan for you, but for now, listen to this episode to get help today.
[01:01] Erin Birt: Today we're going to focus on kids and divorce and what divorce looks like from the perspective of a child, or maybe some of the ways they think about their parents interactions with one another, or how the whole divorce process could trickle down and affect them. So it's important to look at divorce from the perspective of a child because ultimately our practice philosophy is to reduce trauma to the child. And we do that by working with our clients through restorative practices, encouraging them to model good, coparent behavior, even if they're not feeling like it, so that it minimizes the effects on the child. But there's a lot of information out there about no matter what you do, a child is going to know that you are separating and that you're divorcing. And they will have opinions about what they see, hear, feel. And I wanted to spend a little bit of time today talking about what kids might be thinking about, but are sometimes feeling afraid or feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, and so they don't say it.
[02:31] Tyler Birt: I think that kids are very smart. They know what's going on and they take on the traits or actions, characteristics of the parents, and you hear about. And we've seen it where couples who are divorcing will sit the kids down and tell them what's going on and put on a good front that they're still going to be a family. And even though things are changing, we'll keep things the same as much as possible. And it's important, and we look at it from our practice. It's important to keep up that original premise of keeping the kids focus and being good to each other as divorcing spouses. It's when we see a lot of in the divorce process, especially litigated, heavily litigated cases, that the parents become bitter with each other and that bitterness. While I think parents don't do it on purpose, sometimes they do, but most of them don't. The parents will use the kids as a wedge between the other parent, and I think that plays a lot into how kids act and how they feel about the divorce.
[04:30] Erin Birt: And all of that influences the children's relationships with others. If they see parents that are not able to successfully coparent or positively co parent, I should say not only is it going to influence the child parent relationship, it's going to influence that child's ability as a grown up to have relationships. And so trying to start from a very early process in your separation to plan for how you can have consistency between the two co parents, how to get on that same page for guidelines of parenting, and how you can communicate in a way that is going to be tough at the beginning, but with practice will get easier. Having that plan early on is going to give your kids the best chance of success to, one, cope with a divorce or separation, but then two also grow up to be well adjusted kids or well adjusted adult children who can then have successful relationships and successfully problem solve. But any type of separation or divorce is going to have an effect on your children. It's really up to the parents as to the degree of harm or management, positive management of that process. It's up to them how they're going to affect their kids. But working as a guardian of light and working as a divorce attorney, the kids will know often before the parents think that there is a disruption within their family dynamic. Again, I want to focus on what kids might be feeling or saying amongst themselves or their peers that they might not share with their co parents to give the listeners a perspective, a child's perspective, so that when you are planning to divorce or separate or you are going through it, maybe you can learn from some of these insights and modify your divorce or separation plan so that you can adjust and have it be child centered. If you're focusing on the true best interest of your children and it's a child centered process, you're going to have more success. I think one of the things that parents sometimes don't understand when they're going through a divorce is that a child might feel the two of you are getting divorced, but I'm not divorcing my other parent. And kids will adapt to each household and they may act a certain way with mom and they may act a certain way with dad. And in order to either feel comfortable with the parent they're with, they may say or do things to please that parent, but also to soothe and please themselves. And what happens in separation then perhaps the co parents might hear about that and wonder, well, the children or the child always says they want to be with me. The child says they don't want to be with dad. And I'm not saying that it's inaccurate or a child's lying, but I am saying a child will read the room, will understand that mom gets sad if I bring up dad. If that's the case in your family, or dad gets upset if I bring up mom. And they adjust. So they're not willfully trying to lie to you, but children will recognize the two of you are getting divorced. I'm just in the middle of this. I'm not divorcing the other parent. And they might go to each other, the other parents, and say different things act differently. They may say, I don't want to go to the other parents house. And not so much because it's true, they don't want to go, but they feel they might make you sad if you ever say, I do want to go to the other house. So we have to analyze the layers of the children's communication. But at the bottom of that all, I think co parents need to realize kids don't feel a separation like the parents do.
[08:52] Tyler Birt: Right.
[08:53] Erin Birt: It's still mom, it's still dad, it's still my parent. And their behavior is going to be different through this really challenging time.
[09:02] Tyler Birt: Yeah, I think another kind of aspect of that and moving on with how kids are thinking is about visitation. When families talk about, well, I got to take so and so to practice or to dance class or to this and that, that's just part of the family dynamic, you know. However, when the parents are separating or are separated now, they tend to talk about it in terms of projects. Well, I have to take I have to do this. I have my own life, right?
[09:47] Erin Birt: They start quantifying it and saying, well, if you're taking that weekend, then you owe me a weekend. And they start quantifying it rather than talking about a child like they're a human in the room. And they might be talking about this in front of the kids during exchanges. I think that's what you were talking.
[10:07] Tyler Birt: About that is and just talking about the child like they don't want to drive or take the kids places or this and that, to have them come over and things like that. They look at it as like you said, well, you get this, I get this. And then to a child that's like, hey, I'm here. Also, I think it's important for parents to remember that children are not projects. They're an important part of the family dynamic, whether you're together or not together.
[10:55] Erin Birt: Young children, they just want to know that they're being taken care of and that they can go to a parent and no matter what, that parent is going to take care of their needs. And when co parents start quantifying or swapping or talking in very cold business like terms about a child's schedule in front of a child, there's a disconnect. And the kids internalize that and they realize it doesn't look like mom or dad are happy and they're talking about me.
[11:29] Tyler Birt: Right.
[11:29] Erin Birt: And that can make a child just feel without them being able to articulate it uncomfortable.
[11:36] Tyler Birt: Right. And children don't handle that well right when their feelings get hurt, they tend to lash out or, you know, like if dad hurts their feelings for whatever reason, well, I don't want to be with dad. And so just important to remember, I think, for parents to put the children first and to talk about it in positive terms.
[12:05] Erin Birt: There are services that can help co parents effectively shield some of their interactions about coparenting from their children. And one of the services that we provide, I can be your parenting coordinator, and part of that could be that I help you learn how to positively communicate with your co parent. I act as a buffer between the two co parents until you can take your co parenting training wheels off and get through a couple of months of parenting coordination and then you can communicate on your own. But we can give you essentially a training program where I can review communications. I can help you rephrase communications to keep it, again, child centered, but that if anybody were to view those communications, it wouldn't be problematic. And it takes work. Your anger about your separation doesn't go away overnight. Your sadness about your separation doesn't go overnight. Your guilt, your emotions for protecting your children through this process doesn't go away overnight. And there are times when co parents just communicate poorly, but there's resources to help you. So that's one thing a parenting coordinator can definitely help act as a buffer and a trainer, legal consulting or co parenting coaching, either of those services. And an attorney is going to view it more from the perspective of what would happen if the judge saw this and teach you how to communicate with your co parent. But as a co parenting coach, we're working with you directly, I'm working with you directly again on that communication style and pointing out some options for you or some resources. There are online resources that can also help you reframe your co parenting communication so you can practice that orally when you're talking and meeting and exchanging children and you can practice that with all of your communication. So it takes work, but with practice it will become second nature and at the end of the day, it's positive co parenting we're striving for because it will help your children. We are not saying that you and your co parents will reunite because of these services, but what we're doing is we're trying to have a successful co parenting relationship that gives your kids skills to also grow up and have successful relationships with other people or handle conflict in a mature and beneficial way. So any questions about coparenting, custody, parenting time, visitation, a child's perspective on all of these issues as well? I would love to sit down and talk to you so you can give us a call at our office and we can help you with all of your parenting matters.
[15:18] Erin Birt: Thanks for listening to the Restorative Divorce podcast with your hosts, attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, and our paralegal, Tyler Birt. A special thanks to our contributors and to the authors of the many articles that inspire us and keep our clients informed. We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the separation, divorce or parenting tips covered today that you can use now to help restore yourself. If you strive to improve your life or the lives of your children after a separation or divorce, join us next week when we will cover more restorative divorce topics. You can head over to Birtlaw.com to get the podcast transcripts, follow us on social media and even find more valuable family law information, all for your benefit. Get help today and work with us one on one. Contact us to set up a consultation or planning session to start rebuilding your life today. Enjoy this day and we'll see you next time.