When considering the impact of divorce on children of LGBTQI+ parents and how to co-parent effectively, many factors come into play. Here are some considerations:

Open Communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your children about the divorce in an age-appropriate manner. Reassure them that they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault. Answer their questions and address their concerns. You do not need to defend or describe the reasons for your divorce.  Make sure that your communications do not blame the other parent(s) and that your children are clear that you want them to have positive and close relationships with all parents and family members.  If you don’t readily have a non-blaming answer to their questions, tell them you will let them know later after you think it over.

Do not make promises you may not be able to keep:  Kids will often ask about logistics, like where they will live and who will take them to school or to their other activities.   If you aren’t sure of something, tell them you aren’t sure.  Tell them you will let them know when you know and remember that they asked.

Stability and Routine: Establish a sense of stability and routine for your children, even amidst the changes brought about by the divorce. Consistency in parenting schedules, rules, and expectations can provide a sense of security during this transition. If each parent handles things differently, that is OK, but the more things can be agreed upon, the better. If your coparent(s) handle things differently, refrain from criticism and conflict regarding those differences.  Children can adapt to differences better than to parents fighting.

Respectful Co-Parenting: Work with your ex-partner(s) to co-parent respectfully and cooperatively. Keep conflicts away from your children and prioritize their well-being above any animosity between you and your former spouse.

Emotional Support: Be attuned to your children’s emotional needs and provide them with plenty of love, reassurance, and support. Encourage them to express their feelings and validate their emotions, whether it’s sadness, anger, confusion, or fear.

Therapeutic Support: Consider seeking professional therapeutic support for your children to help them process their emotions and adjust to the changes. Family therapy or individual counseling can provide a safe space for them to explore their feelings and develop coping strategies. Especially reach for help for them if you see that their relationships or school work or other important aspects of their lives are declining.

Environment: Create an inclusive environment where your children feel accepted and celebrated for who they are, including their LGBTQI family structure. Affirm their identities and provide resources and support networks where they can connect with other children of LGBTQI parents and other families who have divorced.

Addressing Stigma and Discrimination: Be prepared to address any stigma or discrimination your children may face due to having LGBTQI parents or experiencing divorce. Equip them with age-appropriate responses and coping strategies to handle such situations with resilience and confidence.

Maintaining Relationships: Encourage and facilitate continued relationships with extended family members, friends, and supportive adults who can provide additional sources of love, guidance, and stability for your children. Make sure that their sources of support are not maligning any parent.

Your Self-Care: Prioritize your own self-care as parents to ensure that you are emotionally available and resilient enough to support your children through this challenging time. Seek support from your own network of friends, family, or professionals when needed. Do not listen to support people who are maligning your other parent(s).

Divorce Process: Seek a divorce process that minimizes conflict.  Attend a Divorce Options Workshop to understand your potential choices https://collaborativedivorcegoldengate.org/divorce-options-workshop/ Discuss with a professional the best process choice for your family.

By focusing on open communication, stability, emotional support, and collaborative co-parenting, you can help mitigate the potential negative impact of divorce on your children and support their emotional well-being during and after the transition. We know from research that children who are protected from conflict do well.  With your help and attention they are able to accept the change in family structure and move forward to healthy lives.

Nina Raff, LCSW, MSW, is an individual and couples therapist, divorce coach, practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.