a woman sitting on a couch with child

Helping Your Children Through Divorce

a woman sitting on a couch

Minimizing Turmoil in Your Children's Lives

Divorce is a difficult time for children. They fear losing the love of one or both parents and the security of their home and established routine. Younger children sometimes feel that they are to blame for the divorce, particularly if they are the subject of a custody fight. Older children may demand to know which parent is responsible. By pointing a finger, one parent can seriously damage the child's image of the other parent causing a lasting rift in the relationship.

Studies show the most damaging aspect of divorce for children is parental conflict. For children to thrive during and after your divorce, you must do everything you can to reduce the conflict.

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Here are some tips for helping your children feel safe, secure, and loved during your divorce:

1. Think of your children's well-being before acting. If this is difficult because of your own feelings, needs, and emotions, get professional help.

2. Keep your composure around the children at all times. Set aside time to mourn and be sad each day, when the children are asleep or not at home.

3. Assure your children that they are not to blame for the break-up and that they are not being rejected or abandoned.

4. Try not to upset the children's routine too abruptly. Children need a sense of continuity and it is disturbing to them if they must cope with too many changes all at once.

5. Be direct and simple in telling children what is happening and why, and in a way a child can understand and digest. The worst course is to try to hush things up. If the child asks questions, explanations should be brief, prompt, direct, and honest.

6. Don't let the guilt you may feel about the marriage breakdown interfere with disciplining the children. Children need and want to know what is expected of them. Parents must be ready to say "NO" when necessary.

7. Offer the children the opportunity to see a counselor for professional assistance.

8. Watch your body language, and tone of voice, as well as what you say. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children far more than the dissolution itself. The feelings you show are more important than the words you use.

9. Do not criticize the other parent in front of the children. For a child's healthy development, it is important for him to respect both parents and believe both parents respect each other, even if that is not the truth.

10.Do not force or encourage your children to take sides. To do so encourages frustration, guilt and resentment. Allow your children to be children. Do not confide in them, whatever their age.

11.Do not discuss finances with the children. Never mention payment or non-payment of support.

12.Remember that doing the right thing often is not immediately rewarded. However, doing the right thing will have a positive and lasting impact upon your children, and only serve to enhance your relationship with them, and the love they feel for you as they mature and grow.