Do's & Don'ts of divorce
DON'T lie to your children with stories like "Dad is visiting relatives". Children know if you are trying to hide something, even if the purpose is honorable.
DO talk to your children. Give them simple and straight-forward answers
without vilifying or
blaming the other parent.
DON'T put your children in the middle. That means don't ask them where they want to live or who they want to live with.
DO explain to your children that the divorce is not their fault. This message is best given by both parents together. Children naturally assume they are responsible for the divorce.
DON'T use children to relay messages to the other spouse, even messages related to visitation. Children need two parents even if the parents don't see eye to eye or have different philosophies of child rearing. Placing children in the middle tears those relationships causing children to withdraw or become depressed.
DO seek counseling for your children if they are having a difficult time adjusting. Counseling is most effective when both parents are supportive and individually involved.
DON'T interrogate your children when they return from visitation with the other parent. Questions like "what did he feed you" or "who is mommy seeing" pressures children to take sides. This pressure may result in depression, anger, falling grades, and disobedience.
DO listen to your children as they express concerns over the divorce.
DON'T make visitation or custody arrangements directly with the children without first consulting the other parent. If there are conflicting plans, this places the other parent in the role of the "bad guy", having to say "no" to a child's expectations.
DO be flexible in your parenting schedule. Schedules serve a purpose, but when they are used as rigid structures to control access time with children, they serve as a flash point for conflict. When that happens, children blame themselves for the parental dispute.
Maury D. Beaulier, J.D. practices law in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He specializes in divorce, custody and child support issues. See website.