Children need to know what's going on when two parents decide to separate. Ideally, children should be informed a couple of
weeks before the physical separation occurs so they have some time to adjust to the idea. Make a decision about how much information to give your children based on their age, but give them information. As you explain your reasons for separating, assure your children that (a) it is in no way their fault, and (b) you will love them and be there for them no matter what. These are two areas where children tend to have anxiety in relation to divorce, so they need to hear this.
Many children regress or fail to develop along normal developmental lines when a parental separation occurs. You might find your child engaging in behaviors or responding in ways that you thought they'd outgrown. This is normal and no cause for concern. Keep your child informed about changes in the family. Encourage them to ask questions and express their thoughts and feelings. Reassure them frequently of your love and devotion. Tell your child's teacher, assistant principal, or guidance counselor about the divorce, so that they can respond appropriately to any changes in your child's behavior or performance. The school may even have a support group for children of divorce. If a developmental delay, behavioral problem, or emotional disturbance persists over several months, then it makes sense to consider taking your child to a professional counselor or therapist for help. It's better to get help early rather than wait until a small problem progresses into something much larger and harder to resolve.
Children need their parents to get along. You don't have to like your Ex-Spouse, but you need to put as much effort into getting along with him or her now as you did when you were a couple. The positive traits that once drew you to your child's other parent are still there; don't let discord blind you to them. Create a written parenting plan and use a mediator as necessary. Do your best to agree on the rules that you will have for your children, and respect the different rules the child has in each household. There are many right ways to raise a child. Children may attempt to play their parents off each other to gain control; don't fall for it. Don't bad mouth your Ex to your child, and don't worry if your Ex is bad mouthing you. The more positive things you can tell your child about your Ex, the more relaxed and confident your child will be, leading to a closer relationship between you and that child.
Push for substantial time with your child, but don't get caught up in percentages. It is more the quality of the time you spend with your child than the quantity that impacts the child's well-being. You want time with your children because you love them, but the worst thing for them is being caught up in a custody battle. "When you are focused on your child's activities, feelings, and needs rather than your rights, needs, and demands, she will feel valued, nurtured, and supported." (Stahl, 2007) Consider the custody arrangement that is going to be best for your child, and be willing to give up some of "your time" to create the schedule that best fits your child's needs at this stage of life. That being said, remember that being a part of your child's normal daily routines forms the foundation for a solid relationship over time. Make it a priority to spend substantial quality time with your child without getting worked up about exactly how many days or hours you have with them.
Children of divorce face a hardship that children in intact families don't face. That's okay. Everyone faces some hardship in life, and we can't protect our children from everything. We can make things easier on our children by letting go of any resentment or frustration we may feel towards an Ex-Spouse. We can create an environment that gives our child a full life with both parents, where they are free to love each parent wholly and without bias. That's the best thing for our children. It takes sacrifice and often means being the bigger person, but it's also the best chance we have for developing an unbreakable bond with our children over time.