Overprotecting Children From Information
The uncertainty of the unknown can be more scary to children than the truth. It is important that children are told what is happening to their family They need to know that they will be spending time with both parents, that both parents will continue to love them. They need to know what changes they will be experiencing: where they will attend school, how their time will be split up between households, and how they will be able to stay in touch with their close friends. They need to know that you and the other parent are working out a plan for them. Be careful: Children don't need to know adult matters, like finances, child support, details about why you're breaking up.
The Key: Give your children the information they need without raising their anxiety by blaming and criticizing the other parent.
Drawing Children into Parental Disputes
Don't criticize or blame the other parent to the children or even in front of the children. And don't expect your children to do the communicating between you and the other parent. It can be a terrible burden for them. As message carriers, they become emotional sponges for the frustration and anger that may develop over disagreements between two parents. As parents, you do need to know what is going on at the other house. And you need to be able to send information to the other house. It is your responsibility to figure out a way to do that directly without putting your children in the middle. In particular: Do not ask your children with whom they want to live. The thoughts and feelings of children are important, but that question puts them in a no-win situation, setting them up for conflict with one parent or the other.
The Key: Keep parental responsibilities between the parents; don't burden the children.
Turning the Child Against the Other Parent
Its this simple: turning a child against the other parent is one of the most damaging things a parent can do to a child. Here's why: Children need a mother and a father. Children who are turned against one parent lose one of their parents. Not only do they have trouble as children, they also have decreased chance of success in their own relationships as adults. Support their relationship with the other parent by allowing them to love the other parent, by encouraging their time with the other parent, by allowing reasonable phone contact, and by letting your children have pictures of the other parent in their bedrooms. Children learn from what they see and experience. Do your best to show them healthy ways to communicate.
The Key: Allow your children to have a Mom and a Dad.
Exposing Children to a New Romantic Partner Too Early, Too Often
There are four basic problems with exposing children to new romantic relationships.
1. If a child meets a new partner and gets close -and the relationship does not work out - the child will experience another significant loss.
2. Children may become "sexualized" when they see you in the early stages of a romantic relationship: getting dressed up for dates or having someone spend the night. It increases the odds they will become sexual themselves at too early an
3.Bringing in a new partner too soon may cause problems for the other parent. That adds more stress for your children, who more than ever need to reduce conflict in their lives.
4. Children need time to adjust to the significant changes in their lives. Adding a new adult relationship right away is expecting too much of them.
The Key: Wait at least 6 months before introducing your children to a new partner. Only introduce a new partner when you are fairly sure that person will be a permanent addition to your family.
Abandoning the Children
It is not uncommon for one parent or the other, especially a father, to drop out of the children's lives following separation of divorce. It bears repeating: children do best when both parents are involved in their lives. During a time when you are under considerable stress, many rationalizations may run through your brain. "If I get out of the children's lives, they will be happier." "They can get on with their lives." "They won't be put in the middle anymore." "I don't have anything to offer them anyway; I was never that involved." Don't buy it. Children who are abandoned by their parents grow up with many problems. Food for Thought: You may not have all the answers on what to do for your children. But just about any effort you make -- taking them fishing, seeing a movie, making them dinner, or reading them a story -- is better than letting them imagine the worst: that one of their parents doesn't love them and that they are unlovable.
The Key: Stay involved.
Treating your Children Like Adults
Despite the fact you may need your children to act more adult because you no longer have a two parent household -- your children are still children. Do not treat them as adults. They are not ready to handle all the responsibility. Here are the warning signs:
* Relying on a child to perform too many adult jobs, like cooking every night.
* Talking to a child about adult problems, like loneliness, money troubles, or court issues.
* Making a child the go between for communications between parents.
A survival tip: Separations are very stressful. Its okay to ask for help. Get help wherever you can: family, friends, coworkers, clergy, neighbors, or community resources.
The Key: Let your children be children and not small adults.
Letting Anger from the Failed Relationship Undermine Cooperation for the Children's Sake
The separated parents who have the healthiest and happiest children are the ones who see the need to work together as parents regardless of the problems that led to their failed relationship. Working together means: sharing information about your children, including the other parent in making important decisions, coordinating consistent rules and routines between your homes, using similar techniques for disciplines, bedtimes, etc. Typically, one of the biggest problems people had during their failed relationship was control. That issue can resurface as parents try to sort out their new parenting relationship from separate households. The big step: It may feel nearly impossible to let go of the pain and heartache you may feel towards your former spouse or partner. But the more both parents can put aside old issues and work out reasonable compromises for their children, the happier everyone will be.
The Key: There are professionals who specialize in helping separated and divorced parents work together for their children.
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