Divorce: Some Thoughts
I am heartened when I meet with divorcing or separating parents that seek consultation with me to review appropriate methods of parenting during divorce. These parents show a level of thoughtfulness and care that many divorcing parents are not able to access due to the chaos and overwhelming emotion that often surround this type of transition. For parents that are planning to divorce there are some general guidelines and strategies that I recommend. Keep in mind that each family is unique as is their style of communication. These are only general guidelines. If you are interested in how these guidelines may apply to your situation, please feel free to contact me at 609-217-0973.
- When breaking the news to your children, be honest and direct (of course, use discretion regarding the appropriateness of the content). Do not leave room for ambiguity or interpretation. If children are left to their own interpretation, they will often construct their own narrative in their mind.
- If you have more than one child, or children in that are in different developmental stages, consider talking to each child individually. The information and verbiage that you use will be different when speaking to a five year old, 7 year old, and 11 year old.
- Attempt to keep all matters regarding the divorce proceedings between the adults. No child should be privy to financial settlements, battles over various court orders, or strategy suggestions from attorneys. Any notion of including or using this information to sway your child’s opinion creates emotional dissonance in thec child and once again brings the child into adult conflict.
- Do not use disagreements over pickup/dropoff times or athletic events as proxy battles over custody arrangements. Listen to your children. If they talk about wanting to play soccer, then it would be an appropriate choice to sign them up for soccer (even if Dad always played football). Think about what logically and logistically makes sense for the child.
Always keep in mind that the manner in which a parent conducts him or herself during this process will impact your child. If this process is handled with care and dignity, the impact will be quite positive. It will model appropriate conflict resolution skills, empathy, and collaboration. If this process is handled with spite and rancor, the impact will be quite negative.
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