How to Help Your Children Cope with a Divorce

Help your children cope with a divorce by treating your former spouse with respect and courtesy, at least while the kids are around. Reassure your children by staying calm and in control of your emotions. Quiet the sense of upheaval they feel with routine, order and family warmth.

Stay in control of yourself. Children are frightened when they see their parents argue. If you slip and show rage or hatred for your former spouse, young children may wonder if you will someday stop loving them, too.

Find a way to get along

To raise secure children, find a way to at least appear to get along. This should be something that both parents can agree on. If not, you'll have to fake it. Make sure your children treat the other parent respectfully, too. Be an example of mature behavior, even when provoked.

Of course, you have a duty to protect your children, which may sometimes conflict with your desire to have an amicable divorce. If you feel your spouse is abusive or dangerous, you should see that visits are supervised, but do not cut off all contact. Children have a right to know both their parents.

Be generous

Don't throw a fit if your ex-husband or ex-wife is late picking up or dropping off the children. You are playing into his or her hands if you do. Remember that you may be late some time or need to trade a day. Store up some time credits in case you ever need them.

Avoid quarrels over vacations and holidays. If necessary, invent your own goofy family holiday just for you and the kids. It is not important who has this Labor Day. It does matter that you have your children's lifelong respect.

It is hard to give in during the conflict of a divorce. It can seem that the lawyers, and perhaps some of your friends, are encouraging you to do battle over every detail. The temptation is never to compromise about anything for fear of being a pushover. Remind yourself that you are holding the moral high ground and putting your children first.

Don't overparent

Don't try to out-parent your ex by overspending or overindulging your kids. Continue to provide the reliable structure they have always been able to count on. In fact, you may be able to provide better structure and support now that you are not having a tug-of-war about parenting styles. Clear boundaries, family togetherness and healthy routines mean more in the long run than trips to Hawaii.

Do pay attention to your children's day-to-day challenges. Let your kids know that you will always try to listen and that you always care. Stay in communication, whatever happens.

Keep the children out of your quarrel

Never ask your children about the other parent's circumstances or behavior. If you want to know something, ask your ex directly or do a little discreet investigating of your own. Never use your children as spies. It makes them feel sneaky, disloyal and conflicted.

In fact, don't even use the children to send messages. Instead, send an email or pick up the phone. That way the message will not be shared with the kids. Always avoid putting the children in the middle, and keep asking your ex to behave the same way.

No matter how ugly things get, never try to shut out a parent. Neither of you is divorcing the children. He or she loves the kids, too. Don't try to spoil the relationship, for the children's sake.

Getting through a divorce is a matter of months. After that, you will settle down to raising your family and getting on with your life. Don't let this period of transition throw you off your game. Continue using everything you already know about your children to give them the best foundation for life you possibly can.

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