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Helping Your Children Through Divorce

1.  Tell your children the truth, with simple explanations.

2.  Tell them where their other parent has gone and when they will see them again.

3.  Reassure your children that they will continue to be taken care of and that they will be safe and secure.

4.  Your children see that parents sometimes stop loving each other. Explain that a parent’s love for their child is a special kind of love that never changes or goes away.

5.  See the wisdom in spending quality time every day with each child individually.

6.  Children may feel responsible for causing the divorce. Reassure them that they are not to blame. They may also feel responsible for bringing parents back together. Let them know that your decision is final and will have to be accepted.

7.  Divorcing parents often feel guilty and become overindulgent because their children have to go through a divorce. Give your child love and limits.

8.  Your child is still a child and cannot become the man of the house or the little mother. Continue to be a parent to your child. Seek other adults to fill your need for companionship.

9.  Avoid situations that place children in the impossible position of choosing between parents.

10.  Don’t use your child as a way to get back at your former spouse.  Avoid using your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.  Children can be terribly wounded when caught in the crossfire.

11.  Throughout life, you and your former spouse will continue to be the parents of your children. Pledge to cooperate responsibly towards the growth and development of your children as an expression of your mutual love for them.

12.  A divorce can be a time of loss for each member of the family. You are entitled to reach out for help and support.

13.  Be patient and understanding with your child.

14.  Be patient and understanding with yourself.

Remarriage? Tips for blending families

In a recent article by author, educator and divorce consultant Deborah Moskovitch, we are reminded that real life typically doesn’t follow the same happy-go-lucky storylines we see on television.  Where Mike and Carol Brady were able to enter second marriages and turn their separate families into one big happy bunch, real life is hardly that simple.

Sandy Shuler, a social worker and certified Canadian family educator in Calgary, says:

“Every family is unique in terms of the way it looks and the way it operates. Expecting that there is going to be an instant connection and bonding situation when there are children involved can lead to disappointment and challenges.  Just because the adults are thrilled about the idea of merging does not mean that the children are, so the adults need to go into the situation realistically with their eyes wide open.”

Shuler advises couples to act proactively, tackling issues before blending the family: “Prior to blending, go to a counselor and find out what the likely hot spots are going to be.”

Deborah Moskovitch suggests the following tips for blending families successfully:

Help kids adapt to the new family configuration. Children will belong to two households/families; but they need guidance to adjust to different sets of rules, expectations, and systems.

Bonding takes time. Don’t expect children to love and adore each other or your new partner right away. In some cases, the best thing is to work towards courtesy and respect.  Building caring relationships between children and their new step-parent/family is a process that requires time and patience.

Be open to discussion. Creating opportunities for family discussions, problem-solving and negotiation helps children manage.

Prepare the family for change. Establishing new family patterns, rituals and traditions helps children feel a sense of belonging and shared memories.

Understand the new relationship. Clarifying roles, responsibilities and expectations in the blended family serves as a “road map” with strategies for building relationships and a solid framework for the family unit.

Develop a conflict resolution strategy. Conflict is a part of all families. Combined families have more complex and diverse needs and emotions in dealing with conflict; a solid conflict resolution model helps to address these issues.

Demonstrate your love. Children need reassurance that they are loved and are still a priority to their biological parent, as loyalty issues can arise in blended families.

Discipline your own, and step back for his. The general rule of thumb about discipline is that the biological parent is the one who guides the discipline for their own children when there are step-children living together.  But within one household the rules need to be consistently applied for all children who live there — there should never be two sets of rules.

The bottom line is that what ever you call it—a step family, blended family, combined family—it’s a newly reconfigured family unit. It takes time to bring this new family together, and it takes effort—just remember to resolve conflict, demonstrate love and find the fun.

For more information about Deborah Moskovitch, visit her website at www.thesmartdivorce.com.

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