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Helping children cope with divorce

Children can be affected in many different ways by the divorce of their parents. Depending on the child custody arrangement, children may end up living with either of the parents for a majority of the time and see the other parent periodically. If the parents live within close proximity, they may have joint custody. Under either scenario, it can be difficult for parents and children to reconnect when they have been apart.

Helping children to transition to new environments after a divorce can be difficult for all parties. The following are some ideas that may help the transition for children after divorce.

  • Listening can be the most valuable tool. Let the child select the topic and dictate the pace of the conversation.
  • If possible, it could be helpful to keep a similar size room in each home, for example, same size bed, type of sheets, same toothpaste etc. This will help the child feel comfortable in both environments.
  • Be sensitive to the fact that some children will be affected by parent's mood and emotions. The tone of speech can have deep meaning to a child, even if the tone does not mean anything in particular to the speaker.
  • Try to be sensitive to the fact that at first children may be uncomfortable by the change in their family situation and may not want friends to know about it.
  • If a child presents a parent with a picture or similar item, it is probable that it is something special to the child. Thoughtful attention to those items and finding a prominent place to display such items, as well as pictures of the child, will certainly help make a child feel special.
  • Some children particularly appreciate gifts or mementos. This can make them feel connected when apart from the parent.
  • Keeping abreast of a child's current likes and dislikes can be particularly comforting for certain children.
  • Try to be reasonable and fair with regard to the other parent.

The above suggestions can all help to make the child feel more comfortable, safe and secure in any new environment. Divorce can have a lasting affect on children. Putting the best interest of children who have been faced with divorce can have long-term and lasting positive effects on their general well being and their relationships they develop with their parents subsequent to a divorce.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Child Sense: Divorce solutions; reconnecting with your child," Priscilla J. Dunstan, 7 Mar 2011

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law
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