Child Custody: Helping Kids Cope During Divorce

Types of Child Custody

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Often times in a divorce, the parents are so absorbed in their own disputes that the fail to give the children adequate information regarding the divorce or to give the children’s confusion, anger, and fear the attention it deserves. While most child psychologists will insist that parents should not discuss the details of a divorce with their children, it is essential that parents listen to their children’s concerns and answer their questions. No matter how angry the parties divorcing may be at each other, under no circumstances should parents blame, denigrate, or criticize each other in the children’s presence. Child crave reassurance that the divorce was not their fault, that both parents still love them, and that, while their family will look different in the future, it will remain a family nonetheless. Enrolling children in grief counseling, such as the nationally acclaimed “Rainbows” program, is one of the best ways to help a child cope with divorce.

Establishing a Routine

One of the most devastating effects of divorce on a child is that it upsets their sense of routine and security. A child who once woke up each morning knowing largely how their day was going to go is suddenly waking up not know which parent he will see that day, if he will have to go to court, and possibly even where he is sleeping that night.

In order to help children cope with divorce, stick to a structured routine as much as possible. Consider placing a calendar with the child’s daily schedule, including visitation with the other parent, where the child can see it. Try to stick to the set visitation schedule as much as possible. Though children should have free reign to call, text, or email the non-residential parent as much as possible, consider establishing a nightly phone call between the child and other parent. Adding some structure to the life of a child going through a divorce will go a long way towards easing some of the anxiety that children of divorce feel.

Integrating New Relationships

While recently divorced parents may revel in dating and the first blush of new love, the children are bound to be less than enthusiastic. Most child psychologists advise parents not to introduce a new significant other to the children until they’ve dated for several months and not to get engaged to be married for at least a year after the divorce is final. Moreover, dates should not “sleep over” until he or she has been accepted by the children and the parties are engaged. Finally, parents should be sure not to pull children out of counseling too soon after a divorce is finalized. Children may continue to need to express and understand their feelings towards a new relationship or step-parent. The support counseling can provide is invaluable in this regard.
(This article distinguishes between various kinds of child custody. Topics discussed are sole and joint custody, visitation, and helping children cope with divorce and new relationships.)


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