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by    Anthony Kane, MD
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Does Divorce Damage Your Kids? - 10 Tips for Survival

By Dr. Noel Swanson

Divorce is a sad fact of life. It is not a new phenomenon - parents have been getting divorced since the day that marriage was invented; and even before that couples would unite... and part.

Whichever way you look at it, divorce means something went wrong. Two people who, for all the right or wrong reasons, had pledged themselves to stick together to provide a secure family base for their children, are now splitting up. It didn't work out the way it was supposed to.

That is always sad.

But, if you have read any of my other articles, you will know that I am not one for looking at the past to see who we can blame. What does interest me is looking forward - to see how you can make the best of a bad situation.

No one WANTS to get divorced. But if, for whatever reason, divorce has happened, or is going to happen, then lets at least limit the fallout as much as we can.

So, for the sake of the children, here are some tips on how to minimize the impact on the kids:

1. Don't get divorced! The best situation for children is to live with both parents in a loving and caring home, preferably with loving and caring relatives nearby.

If your relationship is struggling, for whatever reason, be honest about it and seek some help - either for yourself, or jointly as a couple. Do whatever it takes to re-kindle the love you once had.

Note, this does NOT mean you should put up with an abusive relationship just to "stay together for the children". Ongoing violence, drug abuse, acrimony, etc are NOT good for children. If you really need to get out, then get out.

2. If you must separate, be grown-up about it. Do your level best to separate amicably. Agree that things are not working out between you and that it is best to separate. Avoid lengthy court battles and custody disputes. Why? They cost you a bunch of money, drag down your emotions, preventing you from moving on with life, and ALWAYS end up with the children picking up the bad vibes and feeling very insecure.

3. Even if the other person is "evil", do NOT engage in a hate campaign against them. That is the parent of your child you are talking about - how would you like it if people spoke about YOUR parents that way? Again, be grown- up and honest with your children. Answer their questions as honestly and dispassionately as you can, reassuring them that YOU are not planning to leave too (that is a very common fear).

4. At the same time, do not defend the other parent if he/she proves to be constantly unreliable - not turning up for visits when promised, failing to send cards and presents, etc. Your child will be deeply disappointed, hurt, perplexed, and will believe (s)he must have done something wrong. Make it quite clear that it is NOT your child's fault that you separated, nor their fault that the other parent is so unreliable. 5. Encourage contact. However badly hurt or angry you might be, encourage your children to keep in contact (visits, phone calls, letters) with the other parent for as long as it is a positive experience for them. They need that. However much you might despise your ex, do not poison your child's relationship with him/her.

6. Do NOT use your children as a messenger between two immature adults who cannot even find a way to talk civilly to each other.

7. If the other parent really is harmful or abusive to the children, then do everything in your power to protect them. But make sure this is not just your own pain, guilt or jealousy speaking!

8. Joint custody, in which the child spends three days a week in one home and 4 days in the other almost never works. Children need a consistent place to call home, not to be batted back and forth between the two places. But if the other parent really is in a better position (emotionally, financially, whatever) to look after the kids - then for their sake permit it! (Yes, I know that is hard, but it is time to be grown-up about all of this.)

Also, do not try to control the parenting style or rules that your ex uses. You look after the parenting in your house and leave them to look after the parenting in their house.

9. Be sensitive about introducing new boyfriends/girlfriends into the home. Children will harbor, for a long time, a fantasy that their parents will get back together. Bringing a new lover into the home dashes those hopes and will often result in an angry backlash from them. Understand where they are coming from and take it all slowly.

10. Above all, get yourself sorted out. Heal from the wounds, learn from the past, and be an example to your children of how to overcome a bad situation and turn it to good. Give your children hope, not despair, about human relationships, or they will just repeat the same cycle when they grow up.

Will your children suffer from your divorce? It all depends on how you handle it. But if you can maintain a calm, adult, relationship with your ex, so that you can talk sensibly about visiting times, school progress, etc, even if you can't live together, then you children can do very well.

As ever, it all comes back to you being the very best parent that you can.


Dr Noel Swanson believes strongly that any parent can easily become a better parent, and that being a better parent gives your children the very best start to life they can get. Whatever your situation in life, why not check out his free newsletter (called the "Ultimate Parent") here:

Anthony Kane, MD

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