Divorce is a highly emotional time for everyone involved, especially the children. Though you may feel animosity toward your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it is important to keep that negativity away from the kids and focus on their best interests. The experience of the family separating will likely impact a child forever. Parents should recognize how important it is to show love, support and respectfulness throughout the process.

1. Let them voice their concerns and questions.

Children have a variety of reactions to hearing about a divorce, but you can always expect questions. They will want to know how this affects their lives and what life will be like afterwards. Listen carefully to their worries and be honest about the changes.

Keep assuring them that the divorce is not their fault. Most kids will blame themselves. The most important thing during this time is to let them talk about how they’re feeling and show them immense love and support. They need to know that you will always be their parent, even if you won’t be living with your spouse anymore.

2. Do not badmouth your spouse or argue around the kids.

No matter how much you may hate your ex or be angry about the conflicts that arose, it is important to shield your children from this. Do not argue in front of them or say negative things about your spouse to them. It can make them feel guilty or hurt when they do not agree; after all, that is their other parent you are criticizing.

3. Do not make kids choose sides.

Some divorcing couples use their kids to attack each other or send messages back and forth. This is extremely damaging to the children’s emotional and mental well-being. Always think about your child’s needs first. To them, you are both their parents. Do not make them feel guilty for still loving their other parent or wanting to spend time with both of you. Allow them equal time with your ex-spouse and do not use them as spies to learn about what your ex-spouse is doing post-divorce. Be a mature adult and speak directly to your ex-spouse about important matters regarding the kids.

4. Keep consistent routines and rules.

Divorce will feel like an unstable time. Keeping routines the same whenever possible will help children transition. If possible for your situation, do not make them switch schools or quit other activities they were doing. Stick to their old schedules when you can to keep the change to a minimum.

Once you and your ex are living separately, make sure you discuss rules. Both of you should commit to consistent rules between households, such as bedtimes and amount of screen time allowed. This helps children feel a sense of stability and know what to expect during visits.