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Guidelines for Parents During and After Divorce

How to help children through divorce

Tips for Happier Post Divorce Children

At Weiler & Associates, Inc. PC our experienced family law attorneys know that continuing parental conflict will damage your children. Your children will thrive after the dissolution of your marriage only if you and your spouse minimize the conflict between you. We urge you to take the high road and put your love for your children ahead of your dislike for your ex-spouse.

The following suggestions will be more effective if you and your spouse are able to communicate effectively regarding the children. Of course, one reason marriages dissolve is because of an inability by the spouses to communicate and come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Communication skills can be learned with the assistance of trained professionals. Finding a way to communicate with your spouse that does not trigger the typical patterns in each of you is critical for the mental and emotional health of your children.

The following parental suggestions will help your children transition and adjust in this time of psychological and emotional stress:

Manage Your Emotions

  • Think before you act. It can be difficult to control your own emotions and feelings, but containing yourself in front of your children provides a more stable environment for them.
  • Get professional help. If you need someone to talk or vent to, hire a professional. Family and friends can only listen to so much and your children are not appropriate options.
  • Concentrate on being the best parent possible while you are with the children. Maintain your own composure and emotional balance as much as possible. Laugh when you can and try to keep a sense of humor. Focus on being in the moment and being present.
  • Set aside time to mourn the loss of your marriage when the children are asleep or not at home. Keep your composure around the children at all times.
  • Manage your anger at your ex. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children far more than the dissolution itself. It creates confusion for them and the feeling they need to choose sides. Watch your body language and tone of voice, as well as what you say. Choosing to forgive can release negative emotions that are hurting you and your children.
  • Focus on Healing. Finding ways to heal yourself will lead to positive energy and a happier life for you and your children. Whether it is exercise, meditation, prayer, being in nature or learning a new skill or hobby, finding ways to move forward into your new life make for positive emotional health.

Keep the Other Parent Informed

  • Keep the other parent informed and involved in the children's lives. E-mail and fax information as needed. Stick to the facts. Do not eliminate the other parent from the picture.
  • Give the other parent copies of all notices and make all appointments when the other parent can attend, if possible, regardless of whether the parent actually attends. The other parent may never have wanted this information before and wants it now.
  • Keep paper, pen and an envelope in a handy location. If the child has information or an accomplishment, write it down immediately, so that all can remember to tell the other parent. This shows the child that you respect the other parent. You can put copies of notices in this envelope as well as copies of some schoolwork and artwork for the child to take to the other parent. It should not include messages between parents or money exchange - nothing to cause stress or difficulty for the child. Encourage your child to communicate with their other parent.

Provide Stability and Reassurance

  • Allow yourself and your children time to adjust. Recovering from an emotional trauma, such as a divorce, takes time. Everyone will be adjusting in their own way to the new reality.
  • Remind yourself to focus on the positive parts of your marriage. Focus on the skills and positive attributes of the other parent. Your child is a gift of the marriage and has parts of each of you within.
  • Assure your children that they are not to blame for the divorce.  Children often mistakenly feel they have done something wrong that caused the break-up and believe that the problems in the family are the result of something they did. Explain to them how both of you will continue to be involved in their lives.
  • Try not to abruptly change the normal routine. Children need a sense of routine and it is difficult if they have too many changes to quickly to deal with.
  • Divorce is hard on children.  They may not always show their distress or realize at first what this will mean to them. Parents should be simple and direct in telling children what is happening and why, and in a way a child can understand and digest. This will vary with the circumstances and with each child's age and comprehension level. The worst course is to try to hush things up and make a child feel he or she must not talk or even think about what he or she is experiencing. The child must be allowed to express unhappy feelings. If the child asks questions, explanations should be brief, prompt, direct, and honest.
  • Do not be afraid to discipline your children. Many parents are concerned they will lose their child's love if they provide discipline during a difficult time but children need and want to know what is expected of them and what the boundaries are. Parents must say "NO" or provide consequences when necessary which provides safety and reassurance for the child.
  • Offer the children to see a therapist or counselor. Providing a neutral third-party will provide them with a safe place to talk and sort things out.
  • Take the high road even if your ex-spouse is not. In the end, you have only yourself to rely on. Imagine in 10 years, to be able to look back on how you handled this incredibly difficult situation and be proud of yourself and how your children adjusted with your help.

Do Not Draw Children into Conflict or Adult Worries

  • Do not criticize the other parent to your children. It is difficult, but absolutely necessary. For a child's healthy development, it is important for him or her to respect both parents and believe both parents respect each other, even if that is not the truth.
  • Do not force your children to take sides. To do so encourages frustration, guilt and resentment and often backfires.
  • Allow your children to be children. Do not confide in them or burden them with adult concerns, whatever their age.
  • Do not discuss finances with the children. Divorce often leads to financial pressures on both parents. Never mention payment or non-payment of support.
  • Allow your children to figure it out. Eventually they will come to their own conclusion about each of their parents based on their own experiences. That is the way it should be.
  • Always remember that doing the right thing often is not immediately rewarded and is usually not easy. However, doing the right thing will have a positive and lasting impact upon your children, and only serve to enhance your relationship with them, and the love they feel for you as they grow up.

Our Accomplished St. Charles Custody Lawyers Offer Help with Your Case

If you would like to have your case evaluated by an experienced Illinois child custody lawyer, we welcome you to contact Weiler & Associates, Inc.. Our St. Charles, Illinois law firm serves families throughout the Tri-City / Fox River Valley area. Our child custody lawyers have many years of experience advocating for parents during and after divorce.

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