You and your spouse want an amicable divorce because you always put your kids first. You want to make sure they come through this process as easily as possible. You do not want them to feel like their parents dragged them through a bitter divorce, always fighting and stressing them out. Your No. 1 goal is to be excellent parents, even as your marriage ends.
That's a great mindset. If you both share it, it is possible. Below are six things you can do to make this easier on the children:
1. Keep their routines the same when possible
Routine is huge for children. Going to school. Spending time with friends. Eating dinner at 6 o'clock. Going to bed by 8:30. They really take comfort in this. Keep it the same as much as possible, both during and after the divorce.
2. If you have to fight, do not do it in front of them
Arguments happen. That's not a bad thing in every case, but try to keep those arguments between yourselves. Do it on your own time, when the kids aren't around. If something makes you angry or frustrated in front of them, try to set it aside, move forward as if nothing happened and bring it up with your spouse -- or your ex -- later on.
3. Stay involved
Both you and your spouse should stay involved with the children. Even if one of you moves out before the divorce gets finalized, take time to visit the children and spend one-on-one time with them. Set up a shared custody schedule after divorce. Don't make them feel like one parent just drifted out of their lives.
4. Tell them about the divorce together
Do not rush to tell the kids first, making your spouse look bad. Do not put it off when you're sure it's going to happen, so that it surprises them. Do not ever let them find out about it from another family member or a friend. Get together and tell them.
5. Predict their questions and get ready to answer
You may not know everything, but the kids will have a lot of questions. Write down some answers first. Think everything through. If you just tell them "I don't know" when asked about living situations, school schedules, custody rights and everything else, they'll feel frustrated.
6. Be honest
Respect your children by telling them the truth. Keeping facts from them may be fine -- if one of you was unfaithful to the marriage, for instance, they don't need the specifics -- but do not lie. Focus on honesty and understanding.
As you prepare to help your children, make sure you also have a firm grasp of your own rights and the legal steps that need to happen during divorce.