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Because divorce is such a catastrophic experience for children and because divorcing parents have had little to no training in how to be effective parents during the divorce, a crash course in parenting through a divorce is often necessary. While more comprehensive education is needed, this “top ten list” offered by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is an excellent place to start learning how to parent during a divorce.
Ten Tips for Divorcing Parents by Mike McCurley and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Never criticize your former spouse in front of your children. Because children know they are part mom and part dad, the criticism can batter the child’s self-esteem.
- Do not use your children as messengers between you and your former spouse. The less the children feel a part of the battle between their parents, the better.
- Reassure your children that they are loves and that the divorce is not their fault. Many children assume that they are to blame for their parent’s hostility.
- Encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently. Do everything in your power to accommodate the visitation.
- At every step during your divorce remind yourself that your children’s interests – not yours – are paramount, and act accordingly. Lavish them with love at each opportunity.
- Your children may be tempted to act as your caretaker. Resist the temptation to let them. Let your peers, adult family members, and mental health professionals be your counselors and sounding board. Let your children be children.
- If you have a drinking or drug problem, get counseling right away. An impairment inhibits your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need at this difficult time.
- If you are the non-custodial, pay your child support. The loss of income facing many children after divorce puts them at a financial disadvantage that has pervasive effect on the rest of their lives.
- If you are the custodial parent and you not receiving child support, do not tell your children. It feeds into the child’s sense of abandonment and further erodes his or her stability.
- If at all possible, do not uproot your children. Stability in their residence and school life helps buffer children from the trauma of their parent’s divorce.