Thread: Divorcing Well
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:47 AM
SigRent SigRent is offline
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Default Divorcing Well

Safer Child's Tips on Divorce or Separation

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First, Think It Over:

-Don't ever put up with an abusive or damaging relationship -- but otherwise, ask yourself if divorce is necessary. So many relationships founder after stressful incidents (like the birth of a baby, unemployment, family difficulties, illness, etc.). Things get said, feelings get hurt, and it might seem as though the only way to be happy again is to get out. But in many cases, some professional marriage and/or personal counseling can help get everything back on track.

But If Divorce is Necessary:
-If you can, try to make sure you know what and where all the family finances are -- and that you are able to leave the marriage with assets of your own.

-Don't seek to physically, financially or emotionally hurt your spouse or partner. And, this should be obvious, but do not hurt or neglect your children in order to hurt your spouse. If you are the noncustodial parent, do not withdraw or withhold child support or hide personal assets during divorce proceedings in order to hurt or teach a lesson to your spouse. Such behavior hurts the children as well, and they do not deserve it.

-Do not give up on your children. It might feel sometimes that it's easier to just walk away from an acrimonious situation than to stay and fight for your rights as a parent or your self-image in your children's eyes. Don't give up. Try to stay calm and in touch with your children. Abandonment haunts a child forever.

-Remember that this time is hard for the children. There might be behavior problems. The children might say or do hurtful things. Try to stay patient, to allow the children to talk openly and to express anger, fear, sadness, and disappointment -- even if this anger or disappointment is directed at you
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-Don't badmouth your spouse or partner (unless not knowing things puts your children in danger). But don't be afraid to tell your older children the truth when they ask for it (even if the truth is painful for you or makes you look bad).

-Unless visitations put the children in danger, don't prevent them from seeing the other parent or the other parent's relatives. Don't discipline them by withdrawing visiting privileges. If you are the custodial parent, don't move your children away from the other parent, and if you are the noncustodial parent, don't move away from your children. A study in the March 2002, issue of the Journal of Family Psychology (from the American Psychological Association) says that children in joint custody situations reflect fewer behavior and emotional difficulties than do children who live and interact with just one parent, while another study in the Journal's June 2003 issue notes that children of divorced parents suffer significantly when one parent moves away.

-Don't ever punish your children by saying hurtful things like "You're just like your mother" or "You're just like your father." Find some other way -- a compassionate way -- to discipline them.

-Try to be civil with your spouse in front of the children. Do your best to avoid undermining their attempts to discipline and caregive. You might have good reason to be angry at your spouse, but your child still needs both parents. Try to see your ex as a parent of your children rather than as the person who hurt you, and concentrate on your ex's better qualities rather than on those that precipitated the divorce. If you need counseling, therapy, or co-parent counseling in order to make it work, then get it.

-If you think your child or ex need counseling, classes in anger management or self-control, or help from Alcoholics Anonymous or some other group, do consider the possibility that you could benefit from some counseling as well. And even if you determine that you aren't the one with the problem, consider seeing a counselor anyway, to show your support and solidarity with your family member. You might learn something along the way.

-Don't put your children in the middle (expecting them to carry messages, to behave with your spouse in a certain way or to tell you what your spouse is doing).

-If you do not have custody, make sure you see your children each week, at the very least. Try to maintain as many old habits and rituals with your children as you can, and try to keep in sync with the other parent on parenting issues and schedules. Avoid canceling planned visitations. Remember that these visits are crucial to your child's self-esteem. Use this time wisely -- instead of allowing the children to watch television or play video games, use this time to reconnect and maintain strong parental bonds.

-Eventually, it might be possible for parents and stepparents to work together in raising the children. There might be resistance to this from ex-partners, extended family or even from the children, but ultimately it can only be helpful to the children if all the adults agree and work together on important issues. Some partners and ex-partners are even able to celebrate family holidays together -- which helps the children avoid feeling torn between them.

-Tell your children that both parents love them. Tell them the divorce is not their fault. (And it isn't. Even if children have had problems that caused the marriage stress, the divorce is ultimately the responsibility of the parents.)

-If you do not have custody, make sure your home is a welcoming place for your children. Ask them over. Keep their pictures on your shelves (especially if there are other children in the home), and keep favorite toys or possessions around for them. Make sure to maintain special places for their stuff -- whether it's a shelf, a room or a trunk. Try to keep their visits as natural and pleasant as possible. Cut them some slack, but don't be afraid to discipline. They are still your children, and they still need boundaries.

-Both parents should try very hard to stay in the geographical vicinity of the children.

-As you deal with your own pain, try to avoid becoming so insular that you ignore the pain of your children. Avoid drowning your sorrows in alcohol, food, drugs or late nights out. Don't stop disciplining them or maintaining rules that have always been in force. More than ever, your children need stability, compassion and your presence.

-Don't drift away from your children. Tell them about your life. Ask them questions about their life. Try to keep the caring and emotional bonds strong. Do not favor subsequent children over them.

-Do not try to substitute family time with money, favors or large gifts. They might respond initially with enthusiasm, but they will know they're being bought, and it will damage both their self-esteem and your relationship with them.

-Make sure that you clear up misunderstandings quickly, and don't allow bad feelings or misinformation to fester. Tell your children every day, if you can, that you love them.

-Don't rush to begin a new relationship. This might be frustrating for you, but your children need time to adjust and heal. If you have already begun a new relationship, try to not force this on your children. Give them time, and don't take it personally if they lash out. Make sure to spend time alone with them -- without your new partner (and children) present.

-Apologize to your children for any hurt you -- or the divorce -- have caused them.

-Make it a priority than anyone who needs counseling -- you or your children -- gets it for as long as necessary.

-Make sure wills, powers of attorney and guardianship papers are up to date so that the children are taken care of -- no matter what happens. Also make sure that if you cross state lines, your legal documents are still valid. Each state has its own laws concerning such documents and might not recognize documents from a different state.

Last edited by Jeff; 11-27-2005 at 07:46 PM.