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Divorce: Making it easier on my child

After divorce, one parent is usually responsible for the primary care of the children. While the parent with custody is able to spend a lot more time with the children, it is important to think of both parents' time with the children as very special. Each parent should have the right to develop his or her own parenting style.

Here are some strategies for making divorce easier on your children:

  • When deciding on custody arrangements, it's important for you and your former partner to make your children's best interests the priority and respect their need to remain close to both of you.

    • As parents, work out a clear, consistent, practical plan for custody and access for your children. If necessary, get a mediator to help. Explain the plan and why it is important to your children.

    • Encourage your children to tell you how they feel about it. Your plan may need to change from time to time as they get older, or for other reasons.

  • Remember your children love and need both of you. Keep them out of any disagreements between yourself and your former partner, especially if they are about custody or visitation. It helps when you can show your children that you know how important the other parent is to them.

  • It's also important that your children have time with each parent, even if the visits seem to be difficult. In time, they will gradually manage the situation better.

  • The more you and your former partner can work together to raise your children, the better. This will mean cooperating for things like nursery school meetings and birthday parties.

  • It is NOT helpful when parents start a popularity contest, trying to be the best parent. Instead try to back each other up on celebrations, routines and discipline.

  • Try not to criticize the other parent in front of your children or blame the other parent for unhappiness or problems. Do not make threats about letting your children see the other parent. However hurt and angry you may be with your former partner, preventing visits based on your own motives can only hurt everyone.

  • Spending more time with your children will help them adjust, and will comfort you as well.

  • However hurt and angry you are with your former partner, it's important not to put your children in the middle. Preventing visits based on your own motives can only hurt everyone.

  • Make sure your children do not feel they are to blame for the break up.

  • Make sure you are dealing with your own feelings about the break up, and not ignoring your distress.

If your children are still having trouble adjusting, or if their behaviour is getting in the way of either of you having a normal life, contact your children's physician or, if you are in Canada, and you wish to speak to a counsellor about this, contact Parent Help Line, 1-888-603-9100.

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