What Parents Can Do
What can you, if you are a divorced parent, do to minimize the negative effects on your children? What can you do to help them adjust and have the best possible future—despite the odds that may be stacked against them? The following tips, based on information from the January 1984 Plain Truth magazine and from Divorce Magazine should help your children adjust to and endure the earthquake of divorce.
• In this traumatic time, children need to be reassured and re-reassured that the divorce is not their fault. Don’t let them bury the hurt either; get them to talk their way through the pain and frustration.
• Be a solid parent. If you do not have custody of your children and must visit them, try to never be late. Give them your full love and attention for the full duration of the visit—be a rock-solid support for them.
• Pay your child support. The loss of income after divorce puts children at a financial disadvantage and can affect them for the rest of their lives. That said, don’t try to buy your way into your children’s lives. Ice cream, toys and movies are not what your children need from you. It’s not even what they want. They want your time, your concern, your love.
• If you have custody, don’t cut off your former spouse (in normal circumstances). Children who have access to relatives on both sides of the family have an easier time adjusting to life in the single-parent family. Get with your ex-spouse and agree on some ground rules in order to avoid conflicts that can arise during visits.
• If the other parent is nowhere to be found or wants nothing to do with the family, consider moving closer to your relatives. Children need role models, and in most cases your family can help ease the void of an absent parent for your children. But remember, though you may be living near your family, they are your children.
• Don’t criticize your former spouse in front of your children, and don’t draft them into a battle against him or her. Tearing down one of the two people they should look up to the most can do great harm to your kids.
• Constantly strive to put your children’s interests first and not your own.
• Let your children be children. A divorce is tragic enough to go through—don’t make them “grow up before their time” any more than they have to.
• If possible, try to remain in the same place. A stable residence and school life helps buffer children from the trauma of their parents’ divorce.
• Don’t forget that your children still need discipline. After the emotional hurt of divorce, they especially need a routine and guidelines. If structure and loving discipline are taken away as well as one of their parents, their becoming “problem children” is almost certain.