Betty R Wood MS - Personal Coach & Educational Consultant
 

General GuidelineS For parenting children of divorce

 

Children need to know what is happening in their families.  If left to their own imagination and perception, they will usually create a much more frightening scenario without the actual facts.  Only basic, clear facts should be discussed with the child.  Do not discuss plans with the child until these plans are confirmed and immediate.  One week  notice of changes is sufficient.  When children are brought into the futuristic plans of the parents they feel insecure and anxious. 

Children need to feel confident that their questions will be answered honestly and openly.  They need to know that adults will give them answers they can understand.  Adults should take their cues from the children and answer only what is being asked.  The children's parents should inform extended family members and other significant adults of the divorce and how they want their children's questions to be answered.  Children need reassurance and comfort from significant adults in their lives.  Those adults should guard against allowing the child to take care of them emotionally.  Children often compensate for their own vulnerability and fears by moving into a pseudo-adult role and attempting to take care of the adults.

Children need to know that they are not responsible for the divorce.  Their behavior did not cause the marriage to dissolve.   They need to realize and accept the fact that they cannot get their parents back together again.  Many times children will have the hope and wish that their parents will reunite and will often try to create a situation or crisis that forces them back together.

Children need to remain neutral.  It is not fair to ask the child to take sides in a divorce.  Children need to be reassured that parents do not divorce their children and that they  will always be loved and have a relationship with both their parents and both sets of grandparents.  They need to be spared the adult's judgments, anger and opinions of the ex-spouse.  Children have a special relationship with that parent that should be encouraged and respected.  Any criticism or disapproval of the other parent is an indirect criticism of the child since the child is part of each parent.  It is important for the adults to model respectful boundaries toward each other especially in the presence of the children.

Children need reassurance from the important adults in their lives that their relationships with these adults will not change or will again become stable with the passage of time.  Bringing new adults or potential partners into the children's lives should be done very slowly and respectfully.  Children naturally reject potential partners when it happens too quickly or is forced on them.

Children need to know that both parents are available to them.  They should have contact with both parents daily.  While living or visiting at one parent's, the other parent should set up a convenient time to call the children each day.  Children feel more secure if they have heard their parent's voice, even if it is only a message.  Telephone conversations are usually very short, the purpose is not necessarily to communicate specific information, but to reassure the children that they are in your mind and heart and a significant part of your life whether or not they are present with you.  Parents can demonstrate respect for the other parent and their children's relationship with that parent by checking with the child to see if they have talked to the other parent that day.  If not, encourage the child to call before bedtime.  Make your calls to the other parent separate so that any tension or disagreement is kept separate from the children's contact with their parent.  Children need to know where you are and given a phone number where they can reach you.  They do not need to know details only where they can call when you are away.

Children need time to mourn over the loss of their old family structure.  They need opportunities to work out their feelings and deal with their perceptions by talking, dramatic play, reading books, writing in a diary or journal, or expressing themselves through the arts.  Pets are often a loyal and trusted confidant for a child.  Make sure when you give a pet to a child that it is one that you will be able to keep and care for.  Having to give up a pet or losing one reopens the pain of the divorce and loss of their family.

Taking good care of your health and emotional needs are the best gift you can give your child.  When they see that you are O.K. and in charge of your life, they are then free to be children and not worry about adult issues.  They can see that you will do what is best for them.

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