The Child First Principle

Divorce and separation raises scores of challenges for parents and children.  Also, situations can vary greatly from one family to the next.  There are, however, some things you can do to make the process less stressful on your family.  If your interactions with your former spouse or partner are all pleasant, then there may be fewer issues.  If there is any conflict, first and foremost be guided by the child first principle.  That means, ask yourself whether what you are doing at the moment and in the presence of your child is primarily in your own interest or in your child’s interest.  A conflict or argument that is heated may be addressing an important issue, but is likely to have a negative impact on your child.  Conflict may cause anxiety, depression, and even fear about future change in children.  The principle is to keep your child’s psychological and physical welfare the top priority.  This newsletter will illustrate some concrete ways in which you can follow that principle and hopefully make a stressful situation calmer and less harmful on the family’s well being.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t argue in front of kids.
  • Do walk away and end conversation if it isn’t calm.
  • Don’t bash other parent.
  • Do try to say positive comments about the other parent to and in front of your child.
  • Don’t criticize the other parent’s lifestyle.
  • Do communicate about household rules and expectations in each home.
  • Don’t build in a lot of transitions and changes in a child’s week if possible.
  • Do establish and keep at least one predictable routine or occurrence to reduce stress (ex: grocery shopping every Sunday).
  • Don’t put yourself last on the list.
  • Do take care of yourself and reduce stress by taking time for yourself and be sure to get support from family, friends, and/or a therapist.

Passing the Baton

The transition from one parent’s household to the other for visits and joint custody can sometimes be a difficult one.  There are often differences between the two homes in terms of rules, parenting styles, and normal activities.  Schedules, holidays, and family events can also contribute to the long list of possible conflicts.  Your ability to communicate with your co-parent is vital. Anticipate changes and dilemmas and compromise when possible.  Be reasonable in the face of conflict as long as it is not harmful for your child.  Give a little when you disagree.  This flexibility goes a long way and teaches your child how to be calm and flexible when faced with a problem as well.

Tips For Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

  • Be truthful without blaming.
  • Keep it age appropriate (younger children need less detail).  Use terms your child understands.
  • Listen to your child, let him or her talk as much as he or she wants.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings rather than discounting them.
  • Reassure your child that both parents will be there through this change.
  • Use lots of touch and physical closeness during your talk.