Ten Ways to Make Divorce Separation Easier on Children

Posted on June 27, 2011 by J. Benjamin Stevens

  • When separation or divorce occurs, the entire family is affected, but it can be particularly difficult on children though. The following suggestions can help parents protect their children from conflict:
  1. Do not discuss the legal proceeding with your children, under any circumstances and regardless of their age. Your matter deals with adult issues that are for adult ears only. This is sensitive information that will make your children feel bad or sad.
  2. Do not use your children as messengers. You must learn to communicate with the other parent by phone, email, text-or even smoke signals if you must. The child could interpret instructions wrong and the results could be dangerous (if involving medical information).
  3. Never speak poorly about the other parent. You liked the other parent at one point in your life, so try to focus on the other parent's positive characteristics. Be supportive of that parent's role and periods of custody, regardless of how excruciating it might be. Never force a child into a position where they feel they must choose sides; your child may end up resenting you.
  4. Never speak poorly about the other parent's new partner. This new person is going to be spending significant time with your child and could end up your child's new caregiver (at least some of the time). Be cordial or even friendly, if possible.
  5. Don't hide. Alert your children's teachers, counselors, daycare providers and coaches that your child may be experiencing a difficult time. They can keep you up-to-date on how your child is feeling. People may work to keep your child upbeat and positive if they know he or she is troubled about a separated family.
  6. Don't write scandalous or disparaging declarations about the other parent, their partner or any of their family members in your legal proceeding. The urge to write something mean is temporary, while declarations filed with the Court become public record. Consider that when your child turns 18 years old, he or she may go to the courthouse to read the file.
  7. Both parents should be independently responsible for their child's health, welfare, safety and happiness. Make sure you have everything they need at your house. Don't rely on the other parent to provide diapers, clothing or toys. Your child should ideally have almost everything at both homes.
  8. Consistency is your child's source of stability during this emotional time. Do not disrupt your child's routine by removing them from any activities that make them happy. Don't discuss the financial costs of such activities with your child.
  9. Don't be ashamed to ask for help. You may have less income than ever before because you are paying child support or relying on the other parent's income for support, but your children's needs come first. You should not be embarrassed or too proud to request financial aid during this time. Try to keep life as normal as possible for your child, within your new means.
  10. Don't give up! You are your child's role model. As hard as it may be, stay focused. Your moods affect your child's moods and behaviors. Children mimic their parents. You do not want your child to be sad, angry or resentful. If you dwell on the negative issues, then you are setting your child up for failure.

Source: "Alameda Family Law Attorney Tells Parents How They Can Make Divorce Easier on Their Kids" by Gina M. Mariani, published at SFGate.com.

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