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Divorce and Parenting

Mental health experts from Peninsula say that a child’s adjustment following a divorce has more to do with the quality of the child-parent relationship than anything else. Here are some tips for successful post-divorce parenting:

  • Talk to your child. Explain what changes will be brought about by the divorce. Assure him that he is loved by both of you, and let him know that his needs will continue to be taken care of.
  • Stop blame and accusation. A child may often wrongly believe the divorce is his fault. Tell him it’s not.
  • Do not make your child explain about the divorce. Contact every person and institution that has anything to do with your child and explain the circumstances yourself.
  • Accept your child’s feelings. It is normal for your child to feel anger, fear, loneliness, depression or guilt. If you feel your child needs help managing his feelings, start with his school’s guidance office.
  • Keep disruptions to a minimum. Too many changes at once can be overwhelming. If possible, keep the child in the same daycare, school, home or neighborhood.
  • Expect co-parenting to feel awkward at first. This new “businesslike” way of relating may be uncomfortable at first, but it is the key to establishing a foundation for successful co-parenting.
  • How you feel about your ex is far less important than how you act toward him or her. Negative outbursts-jealously, anger, sadness-have no place when you speak about, or interact with, your spouse in front of your child.
  • Do not put your child in the middle. Don’t ask that your child takes messages to the other parent that are clearly an adult responsibility, such as, “Here’s the doctor bill for you to pay.”
  • Respect privacy. Don’t divulge information about yourself, and do not consider having your child spy for you when he is visiting your ex.
  • Honor the pre-arranged visitation schedule with your ex, and don’t change plans. Time with your child is not a bargaining chip. Deliberately disrupting visitation is more unfair to your child than to your ex.
  • Make your house a home. If you are the non-custodial parent, take extra steps to make your child feel comfortable when he comes to visit. Commit to being actively involved in your child’s life beyond the visitation, such as school activities and sports. If you live in a different town, send letters or e-mail, and make frequent phone calls to maintain contact.
  • Don’t rush new relationships. Parents are the center of their child’s world. For him, divorce may carry the same intensity as experiencing a death, and he will most likely fantasize about you and your ex reuniting someday. Be sensitive to his feelings, especially when introducing a new person to your life who may be a potential “new Daddy or Mommy.”
  • Take care of yourself. If the stress of divorcing is too much for you to handle on your own, ask for help: call a crisis hotline, your church, your former spouse or other family members for support. For more information, call Peninsula at (865) 970-9800.