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help your child cope with divorce

How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

Now that the dust has settled and the formation of two separate households has emerged, how do you prepare your child to cope with the changes that occur because of divorce? Even though parenting may appear distinct and different, it is important that co-parenting remain a priority. How each parent arranges their day-to-day affairs can be incongruous, however overall expectations for the child must remain consistent.

Consistency is key in terms of helping your child transition in to this new post-divorce arrangement, help your child cope with divorceas it reduces any anxiety about what will happen next. Two households with stark contrasts in terms of routines, structure, and discipline might be confusing for the child and facilitate splitting behaviors as the child develops an awareness into which parent will best meet his needs with the least resistance. This may create a disparity in following directions and engaging in compliant behaviors across contexts. Maintaining similar modes of discipline and expectations will reaffirm that even though both parents are not under the same roof, there is uniformity in parenting which can be comforting to the child and prove effective in instilling parental core values in children.

Here are 3 tips on how to help your child deal with life after divorce:

  1. Maintain open and honest communication. Invite your child to process his feelings, both positive and negative, about the situation at hand. This will allow the child to mourn the loss of his previous perception of “family” and to adopt and transition into a newer version of “family.” Provide your child with creative outlets to draw, communicate, or conceptualize what family means to him now (i.e. a child might draw something that illustrates family equals 2 houses instead of 1 house).
  2. Never bad mouth your ex in front of your child. Maintaining positive sentiments about the child’s other parent will enhance positive feelings of the other parent in the eyes of the child. Just because there is strain in the parental dyad does not mean that child needs to take sides. Also, this ensures the child feels safe to discuss the other parent in your presence. Otherwise, the child might feel anxious about sharing his positive feelings about the other parent to you and feel caught in the middle.
  3. Communicate with your ex. Make sure that you are both on the same page about core values and expectations so you can reinforce each other as challenges arise. If for example, the child has been told at Mom’s house during the week that they cannot go to soccer practice over the weekend if they don’t comply with bedtime routine M-F, Dad would have to uphold that consequence. What is so important too is that Mom approve this consequence with Dad before offering it. If dad is not ok with compromising soccer, Mom and Dad would have to come up with another option. The more the parents are on the same page, the better, as this will reduce stress during the already stressful time brought on by divorce.

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co-parenting effectively

Tips for Co-Parenting Effectively

When it comes to parenting, whether both parents live under the same roof or not, it is important to provide a united front with regards to discipline, routines, and overall expectations for the child. This called co-parenting.   Parental communication with regard to each parent’s value system is critical for the consistency necessary to foster appropriate modes of behavior.

Regardless of what the desired outcomes may be, follow these easy steps to co-parent effectively:

Determine desired outcomes.

It is important that prior to any triggering situation, both parents sit down and come up with clear, concrete expectations about what they desire from their kids.

  • What is the discipline style each parent is comfortable fulfilling (will allow for negotiation/open dialogue, will be more authoritarian, etc.)?
  • What behaviors will and will not be tolerated?

This way, during challenging situations, the mode of response is the same whether the parents are together or separated when with the child. This consistent co-parenting will indicate to the child that negative behaviors will not change the mind of the parent. For example, if a child begins to cry out and tantrum, will the parents given in or will the parents both remain calm and ignore the behavior? The response needs to remain the same across environments and with both or just one of the parents.

Communicate.

It is important to process and communicate your thoughts and feelings to provide an open forum for discussion. Do not hesitate to express your feelings and thoughts to problem-solve, but be sure to do this BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Even if your spouse is saying something cringe-worthy in front of the children, be sure to maintain this stance and address your dismay or disagreement away from the children. The minute this parental dyad splits, the children learn how to “split” their parents to get whatever need they desire. This is where the child asks the mom for a playdate, mom says no, so child asks dad, who then says yes. To avoid this make sure that you defer back to the other parent to check on the previous resolution stated.

Follow these two simple tips to co-parent the right way.  More questions?  Our social work team can help you with any questions you may have about healthy parenting.

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