Staying Together for the Children?

7 New Year’s Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Staying Together for the Children?

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There are few things in life as challenging and arduous as divorce. But it’s especially painful when there are children involved. Whether this decision came after many years of fighting through numerous issues or divorce is a new “Should we at least talk about it?” concept, nothing quite prepares you for the divorce process. And – as painful as it may be to hear – nothing quite prepares your kids for it either.

That being said, avoiding separation or putting off divorce for the sake of your children can be a costly mistake. It could also be the best decision for the whole family; unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong. Just know that if you are already considering your children as a factor in this equation, you are not “failing as a parent,” and you should feel empowered to make the choice that’s best for you and your kids. If you’re still teetering on the fence about divorce or not quite sure whether to pull the trigger, let’s talk about that first.

staying together for the children

Still Deciding if You Should Divorce or Not?

Unfortunately, there’s no manual for divorce; no clear-cut, black-and-white rule book that gives you step-by-step guidelines for navigating this season of your life. But there are a few indicators that will help guide you to an answer. If you and your partner are considering a divorce but hesitating for the sake of the kids, consider these questions:

1.  Is the relationship abusive?

It may seem like an obvious question to ask, but you have to consider it all the same. Many people overlook, ignore, or are desensitized to abuse and may not recognize it for what it truly is. Evaluate this question from your perspective and your children’s perspective: is your spouse physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally abusive towards you? Are they physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally abusive towards your children? 

Of course, there are certain instances when a person exhibiting abusive behavior can receive intervention and learn how to be a better parent and partner. However, if a behavior is continued or extreme, you (and your children) are better off pursuing a divorce.

2.  Have You Tried to Repair Your Marriage?

One of the most critical questions you can ask is, “Have we tried everything?” In other words, is your romantic partnership truly irreparable? 

To answer this, consider your journey to this point. Have you sought help from a marriage therapist? Perhaps you went to a clergy member or similar person for guidance? Have you both tried to follow the advice given to you? Are there any extreme issues (e.g., infidelity, addiction, etc.) that prevent you from building trust and love? 

Divorce may be necessary, but it’s still a painful burden to bear for all involved. Before you make the final decision, you or both you and your spouse need to be sure that you’ve tried everything and there are no other solutions.

3.  Can You Agree to Put Your Marriage on Hold?

In other words, can you agree to cooperate as parents who also happen to be married? It’s a huge commitment, but if you feel strongly that you want to protect your children from the pain of divorce, you may have to consider putting personal satisfaction on hold for the time being. 

Let me be clear: this is not always the best decision for families. In fact, it’s a wrong choice for the majority of families facing divorce. However, in those rare instances where both parents are mature, committed to keeping their marital problems out of the picture, and willing to co-parent positively with one another, it’s something to be considered.

When Divorce is Unavoidable

It well may be that you’ve already explored every path to resolution but still end up back on the path to divorce. It’s okay. Divorce may hurt in the moment, but it also may be the best path to healing for your whole family. For that healing to happen, though, you and your soon-to-be-ex need to commit to a few things.

1.  Work Together

It takes a village to raise a child, and whether you like it or not, you both are part of your child’s village as parents. Even if your divorce was inevitable, do not throw each other under the bus for whatever role you played in it. Your children deserve parents who demonstrate maturity and respect for each other; they need that example for their own lives.

2.  Listen to Your Kids

Listening goes beyond words in this case. Some children don’t have the communication skills or courage to speak their feelings and emotions to you, so you have to listen to everything.

Say that your child comes to you complaining of a stomach ache. Ordinarily, you would check for a fever, give them some water or medicine and send them on their way, right? Now, that pain could be more than just a tummy ache. Your child could experience high levels of stress, which manifest into physical symptoms like stomach pain, headaches, or sudden outburst. 

Listen to these symptoms and do your best to recognize them for what they truly are. Communicate with your ex so that you both know how your children respond to the new family dynamic – and how to handle those symptoms when they arise.

3.  Embrace “Emotion Coaching”

Here’s where your listening skills go to the next level! You want to make your child’s stress symptoms go away, of course. But that doesn’t help them work through the problem at hand – stress from high emotions. 

Watch your child’s body language. Hear the tone of voice they’re using. Notice if their eyes are projecting any feelings. Don’t project your thoughts or feelings onto them; just listen. Tell your child that you understand why they feel this way, but encourage them to keep communicating with you. Prompt them to use their words, even if they don’t think their words will make any sense. Emotion Coaching can unveil their true feelings so you can help them work through those emotions, rather than treating a “tummy ache” that will just come back again an hour later.

Resolve your marital dilemmas to help give your kids the upbringing they deserve. Reach out to us at Loving at Your Best so we can help your family navigate this difficult time together.



  • Travis Atkinson

    Travis Atkinson, L.C.S.W., is the Director and Creator of the Loving at Your Best Plan. He has extensive training in marriage and couples therapy, based on over 27 years in practice, earning certificates from top-rated couples therapy models, including: *Certified Advanced Schema Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer for Individuals and Couples *Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and Supervisor *Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist *Certified Group Psychotherapist *Honorary Lifetime Member of the International Society of Schema Therapy Travis is a co-author of the latest schema mode therapy inventory, the SMI. He is also the co-author of two chapters in the recently published “Creative Methods in Schema Therapy: Advances and Innovation in Clinical Practice (Routledge, 2020) and author of “Schema Therapy for Couples: Healing Partners in a Relationship” in the Handbook of Schema Therapy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

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