Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tips to Help Your Children Through Divorce

When a couple with young kids divorces, it is usually devastating for everyone. The kids don’t understand why Mommy and Daddy no longer live together, and despite your best intentions, they can sense tension between you. It is your job as parents to do your very best to keep your children’s lives as normal as possible, knowing that is a very difficult thing to do.

Many times financial needs mean that the children must leave the house they are used to. With shared custody, the kids might be shuffled between two homes, which disrupts their routine. (Check out Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two

I asked William J. Thompson, Chair, Matrimonial Department at Archer and Greiner, P.C. for some recommendations that divorcing parents should consider at the start of the process:

1. Consider mediation. In many cases it can be quicker, less costly and far less adversarial.
2. Be financially aware. You will need to know what assets exist, how much they are worth and how much you owe.
3. Know where your money goes. Checking account and credit card statements can help you pull together an accurate and realistic budget of what your family spends and what you will be able to afford in the future.
4. Be realistic. It is unlikely that you will receive all the assets or all of your spouse's income. The process is intended to be fair to both sides.
5. Keep the children out of the middle. No matter what your spouse's faults, the children deserve a relationship with both parent, and it is not their responsibility to negotiate the divorce.
6. Select professionals to assist whom you understand and trust. Ask questions and listen to their advice. A good lawyer will outline the pros and cons of a decision and give reasoned advice.

Adds Allison Granite, MSW, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker who works in Voorhees, “The most important thing parents can do to help ease kids through the divorce process is to constantly reassure them that their relationship with both parents is permanent and continuing. Parents must try to put aside their own personal crisis, which is easier said than done. Tell kids what to expect and give them enough time to process and talk about any major changes, such as a parent moving out of the marital home, before those changes happen. Parents need to be honest, but give age-appropriate answers when their children have questions about the divorce. Remember that although the marital relationship might end, responsible parenting must continue.”

As difficult as it will be, you may need to do some pretending when your kids are present, if you really can’t stand to interact with your spouse. That person is still your children’s parent despite your feelings.
So, the next time you want to freak out because your child has colored on your wall, or flushed a diaper down the toilet, keep your perspective, and your sense of humor. These are little problems. With luck, you won’t have to face too many big ones as the kids get older.

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