Divorce and the Children: Guidelines for Parents

Posted by wendy on March 2, 2010 under Uncategorized | Comments are off for this article

Divorcing parents need to have as one of their main concerns the growth and development of their children.  This includes how divorce affects their children’s future lives, as well as how their children accept and cope during the year following divorce.  Helping children to mourn and adjust to their new lifestyle can be beneficial to them as they try to redefine their role.  The follow can help parents to assist their children in coping with this issue.

1.  Acknowledge the Reality of the Marital Breakup.

a.  explain the family events; discuss the “who, what, where and how” of the divorce.

b.  provide continued support and reassurance that the child is not at fault

c. explain repeatedly to the child that he or she is loved by both parents

d.  allow frequent contact with the noncustodial parents and visits with grandparents when convenient.

2.  Disengage from Parental Conflict and Distress, Resume regular activities.

a.  return to regular activities and relationships at school and at play as soon as possible

b.  help the child avoid the anger and distress of the parents

c.  speak directly to each other and avoid sending messages through the child

3.  Resolve the Losses in the child’s life

a.  talk about and acknowledge feelings of loss for specific parts of the child’s life; give the child permission to cry about them; avoid promising solutions which cannot be delivered.

b. provide ways to see the missing parent

c.  try to maintain as much of the familiar living and school conditions as possible for one year

4.  Resolve Anger and Self-Blame

a.  talk about the child’s anger even though he or she may deny it; young children (elementary or younger) can talk more easily about the feelings of animals or other people

b. encourage the child to forgive  him or her self for having wished for the divorce to happen or for being unable to “fix” the broken marriage.

5.  Accept the Permanence of Divorce

a.  reassure the child that he or she is loved by both parent- then even though they cannot live together, their love of the child is forever.  Even when one parents make little effort at contact, reminding the child of fun times and looking at pictures of the child and parent can be helpful.  Letter writing can also be therapeutic for an older child.

b.  Make clear that the divorce is a reality, that there will not be a reconciliation.  Children need clear messages which are gentle, but also straightforward and honest.

6.  Achieve Realistic Hopes regarding Relationships

a.  instill hope that it will not always hurt; that the child can love and be loved,; and that life can be healthy and whole in a single-parent family or blended family.

b. as the parent, believe that you and the children will not only survive, but that you will live happy and healthy lives again, the children take their cues from you

c.  successfully negotiate the five previous steps, if you get stuck , find help from someone who has negotiating and communication skills.

Remember, your first responsibility is to the child’s safety well-being if the marriage desolved due to violence or neglect, put safety and security as your first priority.

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