Divorce can cause confusion and pain amongst an entire family. For children, it can be especially hard to imagine a new reality that doesn’t have both parents in the home. While the rate of marriage is falling faster than the divorce rate is increasing, it is still estimated that between 40% and 50% of current marriages will end in divorce. Read here to find out how to best help your family after divorce.

Start With the Basics

The most essential action a parent can take after a divorce is to just be present for their kids. Being available just 15 minutes a day to show support and comfort them can make a tremendous difference for a child. Use this time to let them know that they are loved and being listened to. Being heard helps kids know you’re always there for them.

Be Civilized

You’re hurt and potentially want to lash out at your former spouse. It’s at such a time that remembering you’re both always parents to your children is crucial. Both parents need to resolve to never badmouth the other to the kids.

Communication with your ex needs to be polite to reassure your kids that even though the parents aren’t together, there is still a concept of family. The fear of losing one’s parent can be lessened as well. If communicating civilly isn’t possible, it needs to be done outside of the sight of children.

Spend Time Together

When parents both attend school events or can discuss issues with their kids all together in the same room, the foundation for a healthy family dynamic is laid. It might feel awkward for some time and can be eased into by both parents just by saying “hi” when dropping off the kids or attending a school play.

Have a Co-Parenting Agreement

An agreement that guides arrangements about the kids and is adhered to can be reassuring. This agreement should contain a schedule, agreement on how decisions are made, steadfast rules for the kids, and arrangements on how to handle finances and expenses. A holiday schedule or vacation schedule might also be added. Having a shared Google calendar can be a great way to stick with times and dates.

With a divorce rate in the U.S. of 3.2 per 1,000 population (per the CDC in 2014), parents may find solace in knowing there are plenty of others out there that have faced similar challenges and have had to learn how to best help the whole family. Make sure the kids have a copy and stick to it. It will truly simplify life for everyone and reduce stress.

Everyone Benefits

After a divorce, most people aren’t thinking about re-marrying, but most of them will within 3 years. Taking actions now to help children heal can also set the stage for a healthy relationship for everyone that comes into the family in the future.

You’ll notice that everything discussed here improves communication not just between you and the kids but also with your ex. Establishing those lines of civil communication relieves stress between the parents and fosters a great co-parenting dynamic. Parents that keep the lines of communication open, agree to do what is best for their kids, and let go of past pain truly foster the best-case scenario for everyone involved.

Parenting is one of the biggest challenges after divorce. Many parents may be struggling after a divorce but need to stay cognizant of the pain and confusion that their children might be feeling. After reading this you are probably thinking that communication, listening, and openness are the keys to keeping your family healthy after a divorce; you’re exactly right.