When two people choose to spend the rest of their lives together, they don’t really plan for if things go wrong.

Love is hopeful, and many of us hope our love will last a lifetime. When it starts breaking down sooner than expected, it can feel like the curtain was lifted too soon, revealing the mess we really are behind it.

If your marriage is struggling and you have children to consider, here are some tips on how to acknowledge the stress without making it their problem.

Reassure Them That Everything Is Okay

While fighting is stressful, it’s important to teach children that disagreements are normal.

Sometimes we feel passionate and raise our voices, but we do not attack or hurt each other. (Children should never have to witness any kind of emotional or physical abuse between parents. If you think they may have been exposed, help by enrolling them in counseling to cope.)

Many children fear divorce, even if there are no signs of it in the home. Fighting can fill their imagination with hypothetical scenarios of moving homes, changing schools, and losing family well before you even consider divorce. Put these thoughts to rest by reminding them they are loved and in a safe place.

Do Not Lean On Your Children For Emotional Support

Children are not appropriate confidants for parents. They are not emotionally equipped to support adults through their problems. Even if you think your child is an empathetic genius, they will always see you as the parent, the adult, the life expert.

Parents provide protection, education, and love to their children. Confiding in your child as if they’re a close friend will only weaken the confidence they have in you, leaving them feeling anxious and insecure.

Let Your Children Come Up With Their Own Family Opinions

When you break up with someone, you break up with their friends and family, too. Children of divorce are in the tricky situation of still seeing these people as family, even if you don’t. While you may want to celebrate the end of annoying in-laws, it’s best that you keep quiet around your kid.

As long as they’re not a threat, you shouldn’t deter your child from wanting a relationship with their own family. One day they may even share the same feelings you do! Let them decide without your influence.

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect, You Just Have to Be Safe

Some of us remember the first time we realized, “Oh my God. My parents don’t know everything…” If your child still looks up at you with wonder in their eyes and questions in their heart, let them. The second they witness you take the low road or crack under the pressure, their view of you will shatter.

You’re allowed to be honest with your child about the hard times you’ve been through. Children can learn a lot through stories of resilience. However, burdening them with the issues you still haven’t worked out will only leave them feeling insecure about what else you don’t know.

Divorce: How to Go Over It

Share only necessary information that directly affects the child. Provide repetitive reassurance that you both love your child and assure them you are working together so their life doesn’t change more than it has to.

Never use your children as hostages or bargaining chips while you work out the details of a divorce, regardless of their age. They’re not prizes to be won, they’re responsibilities for which we care.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to model healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms for our children. Make use of your support network, put yourself first, and when all else fails, start therapy. There is no one more qualified to help than a therapist. (Plus, we give way better advice than your 9-year-old or your ex.)

Ready to get started? Schedule an appointment today.