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Children And Divorce

Apr 20, 2008
Although divorce is always difficult for children, it doesn't have to be difficult. When parents place a priority on nurturing their children, the children do just as well as those ili two-parent families. In the most important predictor of a child's long-term adjustment to divorce j~u1 way in which his or her parents adapt to the situation. Children whose ~ are divorcing have many different emotions. Most feel frightened, angry, and insecure during the difficult transition or worried that their might abandon them. No matter how bad their parents' relationship was, children view a breakup as a loss. Depending on their age and stage of development at the time of a divorce children will show their feelings in different ways. For example, preschoolers may seem afraid of being separated from a parent. They may also have temper tantrums, or develop sleeping or eating problems. Some blame themselves for the divorce. School-age children may be moody, whiny, angry, distracted, aggressive, afraid to go to school, or tantrums. They may talk about their sadness and show how much they want parents to get back together, and worry about dividing their loyalty. Intense anger is the predominant emotion in older children and adolescents, who usually take sides and place the blame on one of the parents. They may also withdraw from family and friends and become aggressive; about the financial effects of divorce, experience depression, and feel pessimistic about their own future intimate relationships. Many teenagers act out by engaging in harmful behaviors, such as using alcohol and other drugs.

After a divorce, you need to handle the new family dynamics with your child's best interests in mind. The following guidelines can help your child adjust to life after your divorce:

* Set aside old conflicts and focus on the well-being of your child. A child does best when both parents work together to establish firm guidelines, a consistent routine, and similar rules and discipline practices in both homes.

* Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings. Avoid the temptation to tell your child how he or she should feel. Your child may withdraw and be less likely to share his or her feelings with you.

* Don't say negative things about the other parent. When you denigrate your ex-partner to your child, you will make your child feel caught in the middle. Your child will feel much better about himself or herself if he or she has a positive view of both parents.

* Encourage your child to have a good relationship with the other parent and allow as much contact as possible. Don't ask your child to choose one parent over the other.

* Don't use your child as an intermediary between you and your former partner. Communicate directly and privately with the other parent about matters such as scheduling visits, or school or discipline problems.

* Try to avoid custody battles. Custody disputes can make a child feel insecure about his or her future. Don't split up siblings unless an adolescent states a clear preference to live in a different home from his or her sibling.

* Don't expect your child to adjust quickly and easily to your dating. After a divorce, parents' dating relationships cause adjustment problems for children under the best of circumstances. During this transition, give your child lots of extra time and patience.

* Take care of your own needs. Your child will cope more easily if you are adjusting well yourself. If you have an especially hard time getting on with your life after a difficult divorce or separation, get help. Seek out community programs designed for single parents. If you feel hopeless, helpless, or worth less and find little enjoyment in anything, talk to your doctor. You may have depression, which can be treated.
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