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Tips for Divorcing Parents

Separation and divorce are very hard on everyone in the family. No matter how hard you try, the break-up will affect your child in certain ways that cannot be avoided. Research suggests that the most important factor determining the impact of divorce on a child is how the parents manage their relationship through the divorcing process and in the aftermath. If they can cooperate around parenting issues and communicate calmly with each other, their child will benefit. It is also important to involve other loving people in the child's life (such as grandparents) to help with extra time and attention while the parents are naturally stressed and preoccupied. 

  • Your child may believe he has the power to make his parents happy enough to get back together again, or even remarry.  It's very important to remind him that the divorce was not his fault and that it is not possible for him to patch things up between you.  The divorce is final and he will have to accept that.

  • Your child may feel strange or embarrassed about the divorce.  Many children feel that theirs is the only family that has ever had such a thing happen.  If you have friends or relatives who are divorced, it might help to point this out by saying something like "you know, Suzie's mommy and daddy are divorced too, just like we are".

  • Your child is still a child.  It will not help him or her to be told "Now you are the man of the house", or, "You are Daddy's little woman now".  A child needs to know that adults are still in charge of her world and will continue to be so.

  • Some children may be afraid to go to bed or to sleep alone. Even though you may be lonely too, it is not the best idea to let him sleep with you. This will only confirm his fears that it really isn't safe to be alone.  You can remind him that he has his own bed and so do you.

  • Some things your child does may remind you of your former spouse, and make you feel angry. This is a natural reaction, but it is important for your child to feel good about both her parents and about what she learns from each of them.  It may be frightening for her to hear you say, "You act just like your father (or mother) when you do that!" It might make her worry that you could divorce her too.

  • After a divorce, many parents feel that every bit of misbehaviour or each period of unhappiness on their child's part, is a direct result of the divorce.  This simply is not so. All children go through stages in their development and some periods are harder for them (and you) than others. You do not need to go through the rest of your life thinking things would be easier or better for your child if only you had not been divorced.

  • Your divorce is not the end of the world for your child or for you. It is an unhappy and painful time for all of you, but your life will go on. With time, help, support, reassurance and love, you and your child will continue to grow and thrive.


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