Maybe the marriage didn’t work out. But the children’s adjustment following the divorce can be very successful …IF the parents are willing to follow these essential strategies.
Avoid Fighting with Your Ex in Front of the Children
Children should not be subjected to this type of conduct. It is hurtful and damaging because it puts children in conflict between the two people they love most in the world. Also, a child’s self-image is formed by the image he carries of both parents. A child will internalize criticism of one parent as criticism of himself. When a child is made to hate a parent, he comes to hate a part of himself. Instead of telling your child, “You’re just like your mother!” when she misbehaves, let her know she is “like Mom” at proud moments. (“What a beautiful picture you’ve drawn. You have a gift for art, just like your mother.”)
Reassure Your Children the Divorce is Not About Them
Children, especially those in the preschool years, often think they did something to cause the divorce to happen. They feel guilty and responsible. Your children need to know the divorce is between their parents. They need reassurance that they will continue to be loved by both parents, even if Mom and Dad no longer live together.
A regular routine helps children experience the world as a safe and predictable place. When routine is disrupted, children exhibit increased levels of anxiety. When one parent has recently left the home, parents should make every effort to minimize other disruptions in the child’s daily routine. For instance, this is not a time to make a change in daycare providers, and it is best if a move to a new home or apartment can be avoided at this time.
Communicate Effectively with Your Ex
Parents help their children immensely when they are able to effectively communicate with each other regarding the children. Most experts and parents who have successfully maneuvered the difficult terrain of post-divorce communication recommend “business-like” communication between the parents. This involves interacting with the other parent in a very formal and limited way.
Respect Parent-Child Relationships
One of the responsibilities of all divorced parents is to actively encourage a positive, loving relationship between the child and the other parent. Encourage your child to communicate good news and accomplishments to the other parent. Allow your child to talk freely about what he does with the other parent; make sure your child knows that it is okay for him to enjoy himself when he is not with you. Your child will love you for supporting his positive relationship with his other parent.
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