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Communication is key in helping children through divorce

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, you may be wondering how your children will fare -- weeks, months and years down the road. Perhaps you were a child of divorced parents and are still feeling the effects of that long-ago split.

While every child handles the break-up of their parents' marriage differently, many child psychologists say that the ordeal doesn't automatically cause long-lasting trauma to young people. But it is important to monitor your children's behavior and keep the lines of communication open as much as possible.

A study cited on the Huffington Post found that children of divorce had bad memories and feelings of distress even 10 years afterward. Many said it came from the loss of a solid relationship with their fathers, as well as from intense, ongoing conflict between their parents. Another study reported that many of the children who felt such distress didn't hear about the divorce until after it was in motion, and didn't feel able to ask questions or talk openly with their parents about it.

So what can you do to combat these feelings and possibly prevent your child from feeling this distress in the first place? Here are a few tips from child psychologist Joseph Nowinski:

Tell your children about it beforehand. You don't need to go into all the reasons why you and your spouse are considering divorce, but your children may feel less helpless if you tell them it's coming, rather than dumping the news on them after the paperwork has been signed.

Tell them how their lives will be affected. Your kids may want to know if they're moving, changing schools, and who they'll be living with. Take time to answer their questions.

Consider your children's wishes. Kids' lives are shaken up by divorce, and talking to them about their preferences -- who they might live with and how they spend time with you under the new arrangement, for example -- will make them feel more in control. They may have wishes you can accommodate, short of staying together.

The more you can include your children on the decision-making, the less likely they are to have trouble with the transition and experience long-term effects.

Source: Huffington Post, "Helping Children Survive Divorce: Talking To Children About Divorce," Joseph Nowinski, Nov. 14, 2011

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