The papers are signed, the property has been divided, custody and visitation issues resolved, and the divorce is final. Any feelings of relief are likely to be swept away in a floodtide of guilt and an almost uncontrollable need to shower the children with gifts to make up for all the disruption and anxiety they endured. Don't do it, says one expert. Lavishing children with presents could give youngsters the impression that their love and loyalty is being "bought."
Family relations expert and author Christina Pesoli recommends five "gifts" a parent can give that don't cost money and will improve the children's outlook on their new, post-divorce life. First, do the best you can to make your house a home. If circumstances dictate moving to a new home, try to find a place where the kids can have a bedroom and a sense of normalcy. Don't live out of cardboard boxes and make youngsters sleep on the floor. Second, hope that your ex will be a good parent and let that hope show. Even if your former partner was a terrible spouse, good parenting skills may emerge. Third, remember that the children are not your adult peers, so denigrating the other parent or using children as confidants is not a good idea. It upsets the child-parent balance and can cause unneeded stress.
The fourth recommendation may take a little willpower. Pesoli says neither spouse should date until the divorce is final. An active love life while the children are still trying to cope with what has happened guarantees confusion and tension. If a date can't wait, it's best to hold off socializing until the children are out of the house, perhaps when they are with the other parent. Her final piece of advice is "don't divorce your kids." The calm after the storm is a good time to strengthen bonds with the children and start working on part two of the family history.
Of course, not everyone can follow this advice and each divorce has its own individual circumstances. Let your attorney work on the legal elements while you focus on the parenting aspects. No divorce is easy but to the extent it's possible to reduce stress levels, your children will thank you.