There is a 100% correlation between how divorcing/separating parents behave toward each other and whether their children will sustain psychological damage from the break-up. Other than death and taxes, nothing else in this world is more certain. Yet even with this knowledge, and often in the name of behaving badly out of concern for the children, parents engage in a variety of destructive and harmful activities. It is vital for parents to remember that their child is NOT divorcing the other parent!
The parents should:
* Make certain the children understand they did not cause the divorce.
* Explain to the children the reasons for the divorce, using common sense as a guide. They should do it together at an agreed time and place. They may want to talk with a therapist about the best way to do this, if they have concerns.
* Allow the children to express their feelings about the divorce.
* Do not lie or withhold information from the children that will help them better understand the reasons for the divorce. Do not, however, go overboard on assigning blame, such as discussing dad's desire for a young girlfriend.
* Be sensitive to how each child is handling the divorce. Even in the same family, different children handle the situation differently. Because of this, you may even need to have different visitation schedules. Again, you may need to get a therapist involved for a child.
* Help the children feel secure by showing love and commitment to them.
* See that each child’s behavior remains appropriate to his or her current stage of development.
* Allow the children to adjust to the divorce at their own rates.
* Help the children maintain their usual routines.
* Set a good example for the children by handling the divorce in a mature and healthy way.Do not expose them early on to your new romantic relationships. This will confuse, and often anger, them.
* Determine custody based on a rational decision that meets the needs and best interests of the children.
* Maintain regular contacts between the absent parent and the children.
* Do not expect a child to fill the absent parent’s shoes.
* Do not tamper with the children’s love or loyalty to the other parent.
* Do not ask the children to take sides against the other parent and let them know that you and the other parent do communicate so they cannot play one against the other.
* Do not say bad things about the other parent, and do not let the children make such statements..
* Do not attempt to buy the children’s affections.
* Do not use the children as messengers or question them about the other parent.
* Spend time alone with each child so that he or she will feel like a special individual.
Your primary goal as a parent is to protect your children from harm. That should not change because of a break up with the other parent.