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12 Tips for Separating or Divorcing Parents

Separation and divorce are never easy on children but there are many ways moms and dads can help reduce the impact of their break-up.  Separated or divorced parents need to work together to some degree.  Co-operation helps reduce anxiety levels, improves attitudes in children, helps them perform well in school, improves friendships, allows parents to move forward with their own lives, reduces financial expenses considerably, paves the way for a much easier legal process and replaces frustration with optimism.

It’s very difficult for both parents to do well when their children are struggling.  Here are 12 tips that can help.

  1. Work together to decide what you want to tell your children.  This is your first step in showing your children respect and acceptance of their feelings.  You both need to be on the same page about what you plan to tell them.  It’s really tough but it’s imperative you both decide exactly what details to share before you sit down to talk.  Every child is different.  Expect anger but be understanding.  Let your child or children know you both love them and they are not in any way to blame.  Be sensitive to your child’s pain and fears regarding the future.
  2. Anticipate your children’s questions so you can answer them honestly and free from anger.  Remember, your children may be shocked and they may feel their world is falling apart.  You’ve had time to think about your feelings regarding separation.  Your children need time to process their thoughts and feelings and to understand what their world will look like going forward.  Being able to provide honest information will ease your kids’ anxieties and help them begin to envision what your life will look like as well.
  3. Children need to grieve the loss of marriage just like parents do.  They need to feel secure with the love provided by both parents.  Be patient with them and let them know you love them and you’re still their parent and they’re still your children.
  4. Separation impacts children differently according to their ages and their comprehension of what is happening.  Learn about the effects of separation and divorce so you’re prepared to discuss their feelings with them.
  5. Parents separate for many reasons.  Usually, parents’ values differ.  Commit to communicating similar values to your children so each future household has similarities that make your children feel comfortable.  This is good parenting and teaches your children that you love them enough not to disparage their other parent.  Children know they are “part mom” and “part dad” and the criticism can erode their self esteem.
  6. Parenting as a single parent can be very challenging.  Usually one parent is more involved with the children and one is more involved with the family’s finances.  Work hard at learning the skills you’re weaker at.  Do your best and look for help from family members, friends or professionals who can guide you.
  7. Don’t use your children as messengers.  Keep your children out of your battle.
  8. Always remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount and act accordingly.  Their self-esteem and their happiness will allow your new family to navigate forward.  Without their happiness you’ll become angry or lonely.
  9. Encourage your children to spend time with your former spouse.  You need time to work, to look after your residence, to look after your children, but also to look after yourself.  Have fun, develop new friendships, get help to deal with emotional concerns, do the things that you’ve wanted to do but just haven’t done recently.  This is a time to work at feeling good about yourself, in a healthy way, while also helping your children adjust.  Balancing your children’s needs with your employment, finances, personal and social time is an important skill to practice.
  10. If you have a problem with moodiness, anger, depression, lack of finances, alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc., now is the time to get help.  Your children need highly functional parents.  This is a great opportunity to heal yourself and show your children the value of honesty and self worth.  It’s almost impossible for a child to do well in school when they’re not doing well in life.  Give them the opportunity to do well in their lives by setting an example you and your children are proud of.
  11. When parents separate, expenses increase while available money often decreases.  Look after your financial responsibilities, especially for your children’s needs.  They deserve it.  Establish a new family income and expense budget.  Be realistic about how money gets spent.  Cut back on the wants so you have money for the needs.
  12. If at all possible try not to uproot your children.  They have lives too.  Try to help them stay at the same schools, keep their friendships and attend existing extracurricular activities.  Your kids need a familiar structure that will help buffer their trauma and nurture their self-esteem.
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