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Guiding your children through a divorce

When parents divorce, one of their primary concerns is obviously how the split will affect their children. A marital break-up can indeed be a painful and frightening experience for kids. However, they can emerge from it emotionally healthy. They can even be happier since they're no longer living amid conflict and anger.

How children deal with divorce, however, is largely up to the parents. One clinical psychologist offers some important guidance.

-- Remember that it's not your children's job to comfort you. No matter how much you may need to unburden yourself about the divorce to them, find someone else. They need to feel protected and cared for -- not responsible for making you feel better.

-- Don't say negative things about your ex-spouse in front of your children. Even if your ex is a lousy parent or largely absent from the children's lives, they need to be able to respect and love him or her.

-- While oversharing, particularly negative or sad feelings, can be harmful to children, it's important to be honest with them. It's fine to admit that you're sad since they likely are as well. However, don't dwell on it. Further, don't leave them with the hope or expectation that you and your spouse will get back together if it's not going to happen.

-- Keep your children's lives as normal as possible. That can be difficult when one parent is no longer there, or you have to move or alter your lifestyle because of a changed financial situation. However, recognize and be sympathetic to your children's feelings about changes in their lives. Meanwhile, focus on the things that will remain the same, such as playing with their friends or going to their favorite park or restaurant.

-- Remember that you can't give them too much love. Even if you aren't able to do everything you used to do together because you're in a new home or money is tight, you can always read to them, play or just hang out with them.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by suddenly being a single parent or co-parenting with your ex, or if your children are having trouble adjusting to the "new normal," your family law attorney can likely recommend some resources to help you out.

Source: Huffington Post, "5 Ways to Help Your Kids Thrive After Divorce," Samantha Rodman PhD, May. 28, 2015

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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