Tips for Divorced Parents

One out of every two marriages today will end in divorce, but it doesn't always have to result in tragedy. True, divorce can be extremely messy—more so when children are involved. Children may become frightened and confused by the process and often have feelings of insecurity. Kids sometimes even blame themselves, mistakenly believing that they are the cause of their parents splitting up. It's important for parents to keep in mind that although divorce is difficult for mom and dad, it can be even harder for children if they get lost in the proceedings. With care and respect for everyone, a family can continue to be strong during a divorce if children are loved through the process.

Keep an eye on the kids.

Before, during, and after a divorce parents should be alert to the signs of distress in their children. Very young children can act out by becoming aggressive, uncooperative, withdrawing, or intentionally misbehaving. Older children may feel deep sadness and a sense of loss for one parent. If children show signs of distress, don't hesitate in getting help right away. Your family doctor is often the best place to get referrals for qualified psychological counselors.

Children need parents.

Children do best when they are secure in the fact that even after divorce, mom and dad will still be mom and dad. Although parents won't live together, parental roles should remain the same when it comes to the children, and parenting will still be done as a team. Be prepared for the fact that children will sometimes feel like they need to pick sides. Reassure your children that they do not have to choose one parent over the other.

Minimize change.

Although your divorce will create many changes for you and your children, continuity is important. Even if the home is a new one, make your children's environment as familiar as possible by incorporating favorite treasures, toys, photographs, blankets, etc. Create a real home in each place children stay. Make sure each child has their own "space," even if it's not an entire room.

Talk about feelings.

Ask your children how they are feeling during the divorce, and what they think or imagine will happen. Help your children express their feelings through frequent discussions. Above all, make sure they understand they are not to blame in the situation, and that they know they are loved.

Respect the other parent.

When talking to your children about your former spouse, talk with respect, and praise whatever can be praised. Encourage family meetings where you discuss how your children can find the good, special things about being with each parent. And when you and your ex are together, remember to fight fair—away from your children! Divorce is an intense, stressful time of readjustment for everyone, but do your best to plan a time and place nowhere near the kids to discuss and resolve conflicts.

Remember to be the grown-up.

Avoid asking your children for advice on money, your partnership, custody, or court issues. Reassure your children that decisions are made for their best interest. Also be aware that as you guide and support your children during a divorce, you'll need help, too. Don't be afraid to ask for emotional support from family and friends, or to reach out to counselors. But whatever you do, don't let your children turn into your psychological support system or become your parent.

Workplace Options. (Reviewed 2017). Tips for divorced parents. Raleigh, NC: Author.

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.

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