Although most of us would rather have smooth-sailing in our family lives, we all hit rough patches from time to time. Whether that difficulty takes the form of a divorce, separation, or family dispute, intra-family conflict always has an impact on children. One of the most heartbreaking parts of Anne’s family law practice is watching parents drag their children into their grown-up litigation. It doesn’t have to be that way. Changes in the family can be challenging for everyone, but there are ways to minimize the impact of the conflict. Families that are willing to reign in their bad behavior for the sake of the kids will do much better in the long run.
Here are four simple steps to make it a little easier on the littlest members of the family.
1.Don’t talk trash. You might think your ex-spouse or mother-in-law is evil, but to your kids, they’re family. They don’t need to know about the affair, that Grandma drinks too much, or how the child support is late. Save the snark for your friends (and talking to your friends on the phone in front of your children doesn’t count!). Make sure any venting is done away from the keiki.
2. Be the grown-up. When there’s conflict in the family, it’s hard on everyone, but your kids will be looking to you as a role model. They will take their cues on how to react to the changes in their life from you. Take time to acknowledge that it’s a difficult time for all of you, but let them know that you’re all going to be O.K, even if you’re nervous about the future yourself. Show them that you can handle whatever life throws your way with dignity and honor, and they will do the same.
3. Give them a voice. Talk about what’s going on in an age-appropriate way, and let your kids know that it’s ok to ask questions and tell you how they feel. If you’re not sure of the best way to bring up the topic with your kids, talk to a professional. Provide the opportunity for your kids to talk to a counselor who specializes in working with children.
4. Take care of business. You can’t plan for everything, but some things are inevitable. You can plan now for how you want to leave assets to your kids. And even more importantly, if something happens to you while your children are under 18, you must have a plan for who will raise them. This plan needs to be documented legally, not just in your head or told to your best friend. You don’t want your kids to be thrust into the middle of a custody dispute after the tragedy of losing a parent. Naming guardians and creating an estate plan can ensure that things happen the way you want them to even if you’re not there.
Image Credit: Obenauf Law Group