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Our culture is steeped in opinions that can be extreme: experts on one side may publish a book that says divorce is painful for children regardless of how it’s executed; drowning out experts on the other side who present evidence that divorce may end relationship stress and benefit children in the long run.
This article encourages parents to evaluate their California child support order in terms of personal gain or loss but other experts say parents should put the child’s best interest first. Such an analysis of divorce in terms of money and personal benefit may harm the child and delay establishing a cooperative co-parenting situation.
The child’s best interest is the topic of an article published by Psychology Today, which says that parents are role models for children and as such may demonstrate a better lifestyle when divorced and removed from stress triggers that marriage presented. Children are better off when not exposed to parents fighting, it says.
Co-parenting after divorce is an opportunity for adults to raise children with resilience and creativity.
In Oklahoma and some other states, parents of minor children who divorce are required to attend classes on co-parenting which instruct people on talking to children about divorce as well as managing conflict with the former spouse.
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1. Fight fair
Developmental scientists say that name-calling and below-the-belt accusations during the conflict with a former spouse are unhealthy for children to see. If parents fight “fair” and seek to de-escalate the conflict, even to find common ground, children are more likely to understand the root of the issue, learn about conflict resolution, and feel less personally involved.
Children as young as one year old can internalize parental stress exhibited by conflict. Stress in children may be exhibited in the forms of headaches, stomach upset, and sleep disturbances such as sleepwalking, bedwetting, and nightmares, according to Medline.
2. Make life predictable
Establishing and sticking to a schedule can reduce stress in children, especially with children with certain disorders, particularly those who have experienced upheaval at home. A parenting expert for the University of Illinois Extension writes that routines are key to soothing distress like divorce.
Parents who are divorcing should seek to keep children in the same schools and neighborhoods where they feel secure and comfortable, which will reduce distress. Too many changes within the family and in the child’s daily life may result in behavioral issues such as regression to less mature habits like thumb-sucking, bedwetting, and conflicts with parents, says clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham.
3. Think about custody
Divorcing parents often squabble about who gets custody before they are able to dispassionately consider the best situation for the children involved. Parents magazine suggests looking at each parent’s schedule and location to determine the arrangement that will best suit the child.
The ultimate goal should be accommodating the child’s schedule and activities, not winning a power grab over the former spouse by gaining custody. Consider which parent has the most flexible schedule to accommodate the child’s needs, who is most familiar with the child’s medical issues, and who is most able to communicate with teachers and after-school caregivers.
In many cases, the noncustodial parent’s best option is the sacrifice he or she makes to allow the child to maintain a regular routine with minimal disruptions. An infinite variety of custody arrangements is available to those parents who have the same goal in mind: the best interests of the child.
4. Discipline equally
Many experts suggest outlining a co-parenting strategy that will benefit your child and which can be held separately from your emotions surrounding your divorce. Among the key elements must be an agreement about disciplining your child, as consistency in discipline will reduce conflicts between ex-spouses.
Psychologist Christine Hammond suggests making the same rules for both households when custody is shared. One parent should not undercut the other’s authority by allowing bad behavior or letting a child’s discipline lapse. In the end, a child who is parented consistently will experience less conflict and upheaval.
5. Show Compassion
When your ex-spouse does something helpful or constructive, give him or her credit both in front of your child and personally, through a direct complement or email. This will strengthen your custodial relationship and model good behavior for your child.
Ultimately, a genuine show of gratitude (nothing snarky or sarcastic) for something your ex-spouse has done – or doing something spontaneous that helps that person – demonstrates for your child that the relationship may be over but your compassion for others does not stop at the door.
This article is a Guest Post contribution.
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