Healthy Kids
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2011

How to make divorce easier for children

People planning to say their "I dos" seldom think about what will happen should their marriage end in divorce. Although no one likes to think they will become a divorce statistic, it does happen quite often — even among couples that were once happy. Oftentimes, children caught in the middle pay the biggest price when a rift develops between their parents.

Every child is different, each coping with divorce in various ways. Still, there are some ways to make the transition easier on children.

Experts say that adults can recover from hearing verbal attacks, but children don't heal so easily. Therefore, divorced parents should never bad-mouth each other in the presence of their children — even if the venting is valid.

Children may feel out of place switching from home to home in joint-custody situations. Enabling them to bring personal items to and from Dad's and Mom's homes may help kids feel more comfortable.

Despite a couple's differences, they should make an effort to make parenting styles and schedules consistent at both homes. If one parent is seen as easy-going while the other is a task-master, it can create rifts and feelings of preferential treatment. Although it may be difficult, separated parents should set guidelines for parenting that are consistent regardless of where the kids are staying.

Accept that children may have a preference over one parent from another. It's nothing personal, and it even may occur if the parents are still happily married, say experts.

Let kids express their feelings whether they're happy ones or angry ones.

Tailor language to the comprehension level of the children. A parent can't expect a young child to understand the complexities of marriage or divorce, nor why one parent no longer lives at home. Keep discussions simple and answer questions as easily as possible: "Mommy and Daddy aren't getting along well and think it's best to live apart."

Even if the topic isn't brought up, reassure children that the divorce wasn't their fault. Leave out gory details; just reassure them the reasons didn't lie with something they did.

Try to keep relationships with former in-laws as normal as possible for children. They are still part of the family in the eyes of the kids and visits and involvement in their lives — not only when it's a spouse's visitation time — should be made available.

The child shouldn't be a messenger between divorced people. He or she also shouldn't have to give a play-by-play of what occurred while at the other's house. This can feel like interrogation and make a child uncomfortable.

Divorce is seldom easy on everyone involved. But children may need extra support simply because they may not have the capacity to understand the complexities of the separation of their parents.

SOURCE: Metro Creative Connection

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