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Martin Butcher, Esq. talks about children and divorce

Help your child cope with a parental split through understanding and support

Martin Butcher, Esq. talks about divorce

Going through a divorce can be a period of profound upheaval for all involved, but particularly for children. Studies have shown that there can be significant impact on children of divorced parents, which can continue into adulthood. Staying together solely “for the children,” however, can be equally damaging. Here are five pointers to reduce the impact of a separation on the children: 

1. Tell your children. If possible, talk to your children together and emphasize that while you and your spouse have decided to separate, you are not separating from your roles as mom or dad. Make it clear that things are going to remain the same as much as possible, but don’t lie. Children need consistency and stability, but they also need the truth. Be ready to answer questions about where they will live, where they will go to school, if they will be able to keep doing an extra-curricular activity or sport. 

2. Recognize your respective roles. Remember that above all, you and your ex-spouse are the parents and they are the children. Do not use your child as a messenger or go-between. Do not complain about your ex to or in front of your children. Continue the rules and discipline that existed before the separation in both households as much as possible, so the children know what is expected of them.

3. Recognize the conflict your child may feel. Your children will continue to love both parents, even though you no longer love your ex-spouse, and should not be made to feel like they need to choose a side. They should be comfortable spending time with the other parent on the sidelines at soccer, for instance, even though it is “your weekend.” 

4. Recognize the upheaval that will be present in your child’s life. Your children will continue to experience upheaval even after the divorce is final and will welcome any effort you can make to minimize it. Make transitions as fuss-free as you can. Allow your child to bring a favorite toy or game to the other parent’s house if he or she asks. Recognize that kids often forget things, so you may have to run back to grab something. Seriously consider the benefit to your child of having both parents living close to one another before deciding to move.   

5. Offer support and seek it out for yourself. Consider finding a counselor for your children to help them work through the emotions they are experiencing. Validate their feelings of loss, even if those feelings differ from yours. Talk to the children’s teachers and support staff at school so they can watch for signs of distress in your children and provide resources for you and your children. Find a counselor, support group or circle of friends to vent your frustrations about your ex-spouse, so you can keep that away from the children.  

Children are more resilient than they appear and will cope with a divorce if given the support, guidance, and reassurance they need to feel comfortable and stable. 

Martin Butcher, Esq. is a Senior Counsel at Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP in Orange County. 

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