As a general rule, the best thing you can do for your children during a divorce is to keep the impacts on them to a minimum.
Certainly there will be impacts – they will have two homes, they won’t see both parents most days, etc. But the toughest impacts come from being exposed to conflict between the parents, and there are many ways to minimize that. In fact, separating may even help to lessen the amount of conflict they are exposed to.
First, work at keeping conflict to a minimum.
That is not always easy, but the more you can find ways to cooperate rather than fight, to work out solutions to issues, and to really listen to your spouse as well as communicating your own feelings in a calm and non-attacking manner, the better chance that your divorce can actually resolve peacefully and leave the two of you with a better working relationship than if you had spent the divorce fighting bitterly.
Second, try to keep any communication that may involve conflict away from the children.
This probably means getting away from the house to talk, whether in person or by phone. Children hear more than we think they do, so just keep the communications completely out of range. Email may work better than talking.
This also means NOT using visitation exchanges as a time to discuss any hot topics or disagreements. Nor should you use the children as messengers between parents (“tell Daddy that…”). Just keep them out of the loop.
Third, don’t criticize the other parent in front of the children.
This means not talking about the negative aspects of the divorce with friends or family when the children are around. It means not leaving any of the divorce papers sitting out where the children can read them.
Keep in mind that children are very good at hiding their own distress when they sense their parents are distressed. They often will try to become the caretakers for their parents and even feel like somehow the divorce is their own fault.
A professional parenting specialist or counselor can help check on how your children are handling the divorce and give you advice on dealing with the divorce topic with them. The professional may also work with both parents to help you devise parenting arrangements that will work well for the children.
Finally, the more you as parents can present a united front to the children about parental decisions, the less confusion and uncertainty will be created for the children.