Do's And Don'ts After A Divorce

Parents face many changes and challenges when they divorce. As an individual, you are confronted with many issues and problems at a time when you are going through deep and conflicting emotions. There are, however, things you can do and pitfalls you can avoid so that you and your children can survive this difficult time and adjust in healthy and positive ways.

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    Do’s and Don’ts to Help Yourself

    Divorce may result in new situations and problems for which you may not have solutions. You may feel lonely and isolated and no longer have interest in activities you used to enjoy. Different and increased responsibilities may be overwhelming. You may feel three is little hope for the future. It is important that you take steps to maintain your well being and balance so that you can meet your child’s needs.


      • Stay connected to family and friends with visits, phone calls and by making plans. Appropriate adult emotional support is vital to your well being.
      • Develop new hobbies or interest, take classes, do volunteer work, join organizations, exercise. Stay vital!
      • Seek out a support group or go to counseling.
      • Ask for assistance from friends and family with childcare and other chores.
      • Recognize that there will be times when nothing seems to be going right, but remember that things usually get better.
      • Approach single parenting with a positive attitude and speak encouragingly about the future. Children need to know that you are strong and going to take care of them.


      • Don’t allow yourself to slip into a downward emotional spiral. Your child is looking to you for stability and reassurance. Get help in managing overwhelming emotions.
      • Don’t expose children to casual dating relationships. Children need all their energies to recover from the separation and will likely be overwhelmed if they are forced to integrate a new person into their lives before they are ready.
      • Don’t rush it if you have a significant other person who is likely to become your new partner. Go slow and watch your children for signs of readiness to accept someone new in their life
      • Don’t use your children as emotional supports. You will overburden them with your adult needs. They are too emotionally immature to help you and they need YOU to be supporting them, not the other way around.

    Recovering from the pain and anger that divorce brings is not easy. The following guidelines will ease your adjustment and contribute to your child’s well being.



      • Resolve your feelings about the other parent. Be able to separate those feeling about your ex as a spouse from your knowledge of your ex as your child’s parent.
      • Keep in mind that for optimal emotional, psychological, and social growth, a child needs both parents to form a healthy identity. Keep your personal feelings about your ex from interfering with what your child needs to receive from the other parent.
      • Treat the other parent with respect and be civil and business-like in your dealings.


    • Don’t disparage the other parent to your children. Your children build their identity from both parents. When you put down a child’s mother or father, the child internalizes that negative image. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

    • Don’t be led to believe your children are better off without you or that it is better if your children seek you out when they get older. Your child will very likely feel abandoned and be left wondering what could have been done to make you remain involved.

    Do’s and Don’ts to Help Your Children

    When parents divorce, a child’s world goes topsy-turvy. Children are easily overwhelmed by the losses and changes in their lives. They need time and help from both parents to be able to thrive, accomplish, and recover. There are many things you can do to help your children cope and adjust to the divorce.


      • Listen to your child’s worries and concerns. Look for signs tat your child is ready to talk. When your child wants to talk with you, stop what you are doing and give your full attention. Validate your child’s feelings and answer questions honestly. Your child doesn’t need the intimate details about the divorce but does need to have a reason for the divorce that gives an understanding of why it is happening. If your child asks you about something that you can’t answer, say so, but reassure your child it will be worked out.
      • Speak hopefully about the future. Children need to know that they will be taken care of an continue to be loved by both parents. They need to be reassured that they are not to blame for the divorce.
      • Let children know, sometimes over and over again, how they will be affected by the divorce, including what changes will take place and what will stay the same. They need to know where they will live, go to school, and when they will see their other parent., extended family members, and friends.
      • Consider everyone’s schedule and activities, including those of each child, when making a parenting time plan. To best serve the needs of children, plans should include frequent and regular contact with both parents and be modified to meet the changing needs of children.
      • Adhere to the times set for parenting time exchanges. Being late disrupts children’s routines and does not set a good example for your children.
      • Plan a parenting time schedule so that your children have the predictability they need in their lives. Children tend to become anxious and irritable when there is no predictability to their daily life.


      • Don’t be inflexible when it comes to special family occasions or important functions involving your child that may necessitate a parenting time adjustment. Children need to continue to feel a part of their extended families and to participate in their activities.
      • Don’t interrogate your child about the other parent or what went on during the time with the other parent. Be willing to listen if your child wants to talk and allow your child to express feelings for the other parent.
      • Don’t let your work or other circumstances keep you from being in contact with your children. Write, phone, e-mail, fax, send cards or make tapes to let your children know you are thinking about them even while you are away.
      • Don’t use exchange times as opportunities to fight with the other parent. Handle transitions in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. If you can’t manage your emotions, make other arrangements so that you and the other parent will not expose your children to your arguments.

    Emotions run very high during separation and divorce. When children are exposed to parental conflict, they can become anxious and begin to act out or become depressed and withdrawn. If parental conflict becomes chronic and does not resolve over time, studies show that behavioral problems and mood disorders are likely to occur in children exposed to these conditions. When these children become adults themselves, they are likely to have great difficulty forming healthy relationships.


      • Talk directly to each other about child-related matters. If talking isn’t possible because of conflict, communicate in writing.
      • Encourage your child to settle differences with the other parent.
      • Encourage your children to follow the rules of both households even if the rules are different. Children are quite accustomed to different places having different rules. For example, children know it’s permissible to shout out loud at a sporting event, but not in a library.
      • Arrange to discuss conflicts about parenting at times when the children are in school or fast asleep so that they do not overhear you.


    • Don’t argue in front of your children. When you do, you place them in an anxious situation which they can’t control.

    • Don’t expect your children to take sides.

    • DO NOT refuse financial or emotional support to your children as a way to bet back at the other parent.

    • Don’t jump to conclusions before getting all the correct information.

    • Don’t allow past conflicts to interfere with decisions about your children.

    • Don’t use your children as messengers to convey angry feelings towards your ex or have them “spy” for you about your ex’s life.

    REMEMBER: As you and your children move through the process of divorce and adjustment, your children are looking to you to guide them to “safe ground.” You are their role model. How you handle this divorce may well determine how they will learn to handle other problems in life. Will they see parents who model cooperation and civility in solving problems or will they see two people who tumble, kicking and screaming, into every pitfall? Following these “do’s” and “don’ts” helps you give your children a better chance to come through the divorce learning that life goes on and people can adjust to change.

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