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35 Terrific Parenting Tips: What Do You Tell The Kids?

Answer: Visitation Suggestions (Parenting Time) – Health Care professionals tell us there are certain, positive steps that parents can take to minimize the effects of divorce or separation upon their children.

First, it is important to realize that society, in general, does not provide any training on how to be an ex-spouse. The good common sense that you have used in raising your children up to this point may not be enough at the time of, and during, divorce. There are new things that your children are thinking and feeling; and, the truth is, your children (no matter how bright, sensitive or loving they may be) are simply unable to share these new feelings with you.

There are certain, common thoughts and fears that ordinary children have expressed to professionals while in family therapy.

NEVER ASK A CHILD WHICH PARENT HE/SHE WANTS TO LIVE WITH.

Children secretly become very worried about what’s going to happen to them. For example, younger children worry about whether they will have a roof over their heads; older children worry about whether they will be able to continue their education and if they will have to move and lose friends.

CHILDREN NEED TO BE TOLD WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THEM.

For example, they must know where they will be living and going to school. Also, they need to know, in an appropriate way, why the parents are divorcing. They don’t need to have the details.

Keep your statements simple when talking to the children. For example: “I still love your daddy, but in a different way.” Or, “Divorce is something only adults understand.” Or, “We tried to make things work out but it just wasn’t meant to be.” Or, “You will understand when you are older.” Children need to be told what the future holds for them.

Children also worry about their parents. They worry about whether the absent parent is lonely and how & where he (or she) eats and sleeps. They want to know where that parent is because they feel that he or she has vanished. They must be given a commitment as to when they will see that parent again. The visiting parent should also bring the child to his or her new place of residence as soon as possible so that the child can inspect its physical setup.

Children are also deeply concerned about whether the parent remaining in the family home will be able to manage. That parent must transmit to the children a positive feeling that everything is going to be O.K.

Specific recommendations:

  • Be sure to actually tell each child individually that he or she is not the cause of the divorce, and will always be loved by both parents.
  • Always let the child know when he or she will see the absent parent.
  • Be supportive and positive about the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • Continue reassuring the children that they can still count on both parents.
  • The visiting parent should establish a home for the children with a place for their belongings (each child should be given at least one drawer in the visiting parent’s home for toys, artwork, pajamas, etc. with absolute privacy being guaranteed to the child with respect to this special drawer.
  • The custodial parent should have children ready in time for visitation and should be home on time to receive the children.
  • The visiting parent should be prompt for pickup and drop-off.
  • The visiting parent should maintain regular and frequent telephone contact with the children.
  • The visiting parent should try to avoid canceling plans with the children.
  • NEVER Pump the children for information about the other parent.
  • NEVER Use the children to carry angry messages back and forth.
  • NEVER Use the children to deliver support payments or bills.
  • NEVER Argue in front of the children.
  • NEVER Speak derogatorily about the other parent.
  • NEVER Ask children with whom they want to live.
  • NEVER Ask a child to keep a secret from the other parent.
  • NEVER Put on a long, sad face when your child leaves to see the other parent.
  • DON’T change residences more often than is absolutely necessary.
  • DON’T believe everything the children say about the other parent.
  • DON’T use the children to make or change plans. Deal directly with the other parent.
  • Be careful when discussing your case on the phone. Little ears hear more than we think.
  • Children need to see their parents as reasonable and rational people who have made the decision to end their relationship in a careful and thoughtful way.
  • Visitation should usually not take place in the children’s home.
  • Don’t introduce your children to your new romantic interest until the children have adjusted to your separation and your new relationship is stable.
  • Don’t bring your children to court or to your lawyer’s office.
  • Be together when you tell the children about the divorce
  • Don’t wait until one spouse is ready to move out before you tell them
  • Be sure to tell the kids about any changes in their daily routines BEFORE the changes happen
  • NEVER express blame or anger
  • NEVER ask the children to take sides
  • Protect your children from your sadness
  • Don’t make your kids feel awkward or uncomfortable about loving the other parent
  • Understand that kids are reluctant to open up and expect them to be silent and withdrawn
  • Be aware that children are unsure of how to act. They want to be loyal to the parent they are with and fear they will disappoint him or her because of they are also loyal to the other parent.
  • NEVER say or do anything that would make the children feel sorry for you. They have enough on their plates without having to worry about you.

NEVER USE THE CHILDREN TO DELIVER SUPPORT PAYMENTS.

Needless to say, the children who suffer the most from their parents’ separation, are those who have their relationship with one parent disrupted by loss of contact with that parent. Children suffer the least when they are removed from the parents’ conflict, when they are allowed free access to both parents, when both parents continue to be parents and when the divorce produces little, if any, financial loss to he children.

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Richard and Kari are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 60 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook, DuPage, and Will counties.

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