Priceless Parenting Tips
Helping Your Kids During The Divorce
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.
- 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 the children.
Parents can lessen the negative effects of their divorce upon the children by:
- Treating each opportunity to be with their children as a rare chance to make things better for them.
- Remembering that the parental duty they owe their children far outweighs the worst problem the other parent can cause them.
- Recognizing that the children perceive aggression between their parents as aggression toward them.
- Regularly telling the children about some of the neat things the other parent did before they were born or when they were too young to remember.
- Recognizing that it is not their children’s role to be their shrink, double agent, or courier.
- Being on time and calling the other parent promptly if any problems come up.
- Being enthusiastic about the positive things that the other parent does with the children.
- Respecting the other parent’s time with the children and also being flexible, so as to not cause any waves.
- Making sure their friends and family members say only respectful and kind things about the other parent.
Unique Insights For Helping Your Kids
It is simply not enough to love your children and want to minimize the effects of the divorce upon them. Parenting during divorce is a heroic task. It requires doing certain things that most people do not want to do. Heroes force themselves to overcome this resistance. They help their children despite their personal discomfort or likes and dislikes.
While this website contains many sound (and often, little known) parenting tips, the insights on this page deserve special mention and recognition. They are just a sampling the helpful ideas of Charles and Barbara Asher.
Charlie is an Indiana divorce lawyer and mediator, and Barb is a social worker and family counselor. They have put their “day jobs” on a back burner and have formed a Family Foundation to benefit children of divorce. Talk about heroes!
Again, this is just a sampling of some of Charlie and Barb’s insights:
- The only job of children is to be children. They cannot be children unless their parents are adults.
- Always remember this is your child’s one and only childhood.
- If parents are in conflict, their children are in danger, and only the parents can protect them from that danger.
- Children of divorce experience any attack between their parents as an attack on them. Children have no defense against their parents’ anger with each other.
- Parents in conflict have 10,000 minutes each week to sort out their differences when the children are not present. There is no excuse for arguing in front of the children during the three or four minutes that you are all together. This time should be totally dedicated to your children and to their need for peace in the family.
- Challenge yourself to think of ways to make the visitation pick-ups and drop-offs smoother and more tranquil.
- On visitation pick-ups and drop-offs, make it a point to say a few pleasant words and give a smile to the children and to the other parent. These little scraps of time are the children’s time; they are helpful in assuring the children that their world is safe.
- Few things are as hurtful to a child as expecting a parent to be there—and then being disappointed.
- Make a list of ten good memories or of complimentary things about the other parent. Mention these items to the children from time to time, and make them specific. “Daddy is nice” is not nearly as effective as is:“Your feet are shaped just like Mom’s. Thank goodness they don’t look mine – Mom has beautiful feet.”“When you were 2 1/2, you started to swing by yourself on your swing set. I remember Mommy panicking about it. I told her to relax and see if you could do it, and you did. You were very proud of that. Mommy has always been so protective of you.”“Remember when you and Mommy made breakfast in bed for me on Father’s Day? You both did a great job. That was really nice and I’ll never forget it.”“I remember when Daddy spent hours teaching you to ride your bike. You were almost six, and he was determined to get you riding without training wheels before your birthday. It took about week, but you did it. He was exhausted from running after you to make sure that you didn’t fall.”
This page is compliments of Charles and Barbara Asher
Freedom 22 Foundation
6376 Dawson Lake Drive
Indianapolis, Indiana 46220
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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 80 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook and DuPage counties.