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Reducing the effects of divorce on your children

For parents, the hardest part of a divorce may be the effect it has on their children.

Fortunately, there are things you can do that will mitigate the emotional damage from a divorce on your own child. Here are the things to keep in mind:

1. Remember that your child is unique

Don't get caught up in all the statistical information out there about the effects of divorce on children. None of the available statistics are going to tell you how your child is going to react.

2. Remember that the first year is the hardest

The first year following a divorce is hardest on everyone. It's the first "everything," including summer vacation, Christmas and birthdays -- without an intact family unit. It gets easier as everyone settles into a new normal routine.

3. Understand that your child's age plays into your child's reaction

Very young children may feel confused or frightened at having to travel between two homes. School-age children may blame themselves for the divorce -- especially if the parents fought over issues related to their upbringing. Teenagers may act out socially or withdraw. They may even choose sides. You have to tailor your reaction not only to your individual child but to his or her age group. Be willing to seek professional help if the situation seems over your head or out of control.

4. Don't put your child in the middle of your fight

This is probably the number one thing you can do to minimize the stress your child feels over your divorce. Don't say negative things about their other parent in their hearing. Help your child maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-spouse. Approach all co-parenting situations the same way you'd approach a business meeting and stick to what's important: your child.

5. Give your child some control over the situation

Whenever possible, give your child some say over the parenting schedule or routine. Make sure that he or she knows they can call the other parent at any time. Encourage your child to ask questions and talk about his or her feelings.

Ultimately, you can guide your child through the difficult days following the divorce the same way you guide your child through anything: patiently. If you have more questions about divorce, professional guidance is available.

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