Although you cannot completely protect your child from the impact of divorce, there are things you can do to help her get through it in a healthier manner and one in which you lessen her risk of significant trauma.
Start Your Own Healing Process
When you deal with your own grief in a positive and proactive way, you will both show your child that you are strong and there for her, and you will actually be stronger and more effective in protecting your interests and hers.
Minimize Exposure to Conflict
Do your best to minimize your child’s exposure to major parental conflict. While this may not always be possible, you should work hard to keeping major fights away from her presence and, where necessary, take actions to separate yourself from any volatile or, worse yet, dangerous episodes. In unhealthy situations, it is typically best to physically separate from the other parent sooner than later.
Work Hard to Create a Respectful Co-Parenting Relationship
You should make every possible effort to cooperate and compromise, so long as you do not jeopardize your legal interests or the safety and security of any member of your family. Always strive to communicate with your co-parent in a respectful and professional manner. Where successful, you will help foster an environment that is secure and emotionally stable.
Speak Positively About the Other Parent
It is important for your child to believe that each of her parents is a good person. Try your best to understand that your own differences and disagreements with your co-parent are generally distinct from, and irrelevant to, their strength and character as a parent. Your daughter will do far better in the long run with two loving and stable parents in her life, however different you and your co-parent may be.
Show Concern not Curiosity
When you ask about your child’s time with the other parent, frame your conversation in terms of a desire to simply hear about the visit. This is not an appropriate time for you to learn information about your co-parent’s mistakes or weaknesses. This is a time to be supportive and curious, and to help your child feel comfortable in having an open relationship with you. If you do this well, you will naturally learn about any significant problems that may need to be addressed legally because you have a positive and transparent relationship with your child.
Support Your Kids
Some children seem so mature that they appear to handle their parents breakup without any fallout. However, they may be hurting inside. With supportive and loving communication with your child, and with help where necessary from a qualified mental health professional, you will best be able to address whatever internal pains and hurt she may be hiding or, even possibly, not aware of, herself. The effects of divorce on children may sometimes not show up for years, but they can be profound and difficult to heal down the road. Be attentive to your child’s needs including her emotional needs, and you will help her over the long term be a happy and healthy adult who is best able to handle future adult and romantic relationships.
Talk to Your Child About the Divorce
Talk to your child about her feelings. Make sure she understands that she is not responsible for the divorce. She is also not responsible for taking care of you or her other parent. She should not even know the details of the legal proceedings. It is enough to reassure her that the adults are handling everything through the courts, and everything will be OK. Do your best to answer any questions she might have. Again, having a good mental health professional for either your daughter and/or yourself is an excellent idea.
Understand the Best Interests of the Child
Your child needs both of her parents. Unless there are dangerous or abusive circumstances, Colorado law encourages both parents to have stable and loving relationships with their children, despite the divorce. In fact, you and your co-parent have a specific and clear duty under Colorado law to “encourage the sharing of love and affection” between your daughter and her other parent. Judges take this requirement very seriously, and you should, too. Your daughter will do so much better over the long term if you are successful.