When a couple has children, they never envision putting themselves or the kids through the wringer of a child custody dispute. However, the ugly truth is that sometimes it can't be helped, and couples find out that they cannot live together or get along. If you find yourself in the midst of a child custody dispute, one of the many challenges you're likely to face is how to deal with your kids' curiosity about the dispute. Here are a few of the main questions your kids may have during this time and some suggestions on how to handle them.
Will I Have to Choose Between You?
One of the major fears that kids with divorcing parents face is the horror of being asked to choose between both parents. They fear that one parent will be hurt or that one parent will get angry with them. Reassure the children that both parents love them and understand that the divorce is going to be painful for them. Be sure to let them know that you will never ask them to choose between you and your ex. Discuss the situation with your ex as well to request that they similarly reassure the kids.
Will I Be Separated from My Brothers and Sisters?
Some children have the very real fear that they will be separated from their siblings during the custody dispute. While the norm is for siblings to stay together during a custody dispute, some couples do decide that's for the best. As long as there is no chance that the kids will be separated, reassure the concerned kids that they will stick together. If you think a separation is likely, reassure the kids that you will let them see each other often. Brainstorm with your children to come up with ways that the siblings can stay in close touch and do lots of things together.
If you have a special needs child, the question may get even trickier. If your ex is spiteful and trying to pay as little child support as possible, they may attempt to manipulate the custody of the child whose social security disability benefits. If you're not sure whether the kids will be separated during the custody process, don't promise anything. Simply reassure the child with promises you can keep, such as how much you love all siblings and will plan fun things to them to do together often.
Why Are You Fighting?
Even if you keep the nitty gritty details away from your kids, they are going to know that a custody dispute is going on. When they want to know why the conflict is ongoing, remember that giving minimal information is the best path to take. You're not likely to regret the high road. Your kids' well-being can be compromised if they are alienated from parents. Try to explain that you are both concerned with the best interests of the children and that you're just trying to get help deciding what that is.
Finally, keep in mind that, while you do want to give minimal information when it comes to the ugly side of the divorce, it's important to never lie to your kids throughout the whole difficult process. You can't go wrong when you remain honest but tactful and age-appropriate when answering questions your children have during a custody dispute.