Guidelines for Helping Children with Separation and Divorce

April 4th, 2013 | in Separation and Divorce

Separation and/or divorce is a time of emotional, relationship and environmental change for all family members. Throughout the process it is important to prioritize and consider the impact and unique needs of the children in the family. Regardless of the custody and access decisions made by parents or the Court, parents should also consider following general guidelines that prioritize the emotional, adjustment and support needs of your children. You may become aware that some of these guidelines are difficult to follow and your therapist can support you in making efforts to do so and/or to provide a more thorough explanation of the basis for the guidelines if required.

Children Benefit When Parents:

  • Initiate the child’s contact with the other parent on a regular basis by phone, letter, audio and videotapes, email and other forms of communication
  • Maintain predictable schedules
  • Are prompt and have children ready at exchange time
  • Avoid any communication that might lead to conflict at exchange times
  • Ensure smooth transitions by assuring the child they support the child’s relationship with the other parent and trust the other parent’s parenting skills
  • Allow the child to carry important items such as clothing, toys and security items with them between parents’ homes
  • Follow similar routines for mealtimes, bedtime and homework time
  • Support contact with grandparents and other family members on both sides of the family to minimize additional feelings of loss
  • Handle rules and discipline in similar ways
  • Are flexible so that the child can take advantage of opportunities to participate in special family celebrations or events
  • Give as much advance notice as possible to the other parent about such special occasions
  • Provide itinerary of travel dates, destinations and places where the child or parent can be reached when on vacation
  • Establish a workable, “businesslike” method of communication if regular styles of communication have proven ineffective

Children Are Harmed When Parents:

  • Make their child choose between mom and dad, directly or indirectly
  • Question their children about the other parents activities or relationships
  • Blur the boundaries between parental issues and issues involving the children
  • Make promises they do not keep
  • Argue with or put down the other parent in the child’s presence or range of hearing
  • Discuss their personal problems with the child or in the range of the child’s hearing
  • Use the child as a messenger, spy or mediator

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