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How do kids react to a parent's divorce?

Divorce can be rough -- particularly if you're a parent. You know that the end of your marriage is going to affect your children as much as it affects you.

The more conscious you are of the emotional impact of your divorce on the kids, the easier it will be to develop strategies that you can use to reassure them. Here are the common problems divorced parents encounter by age:

Toddlers

Your youngest children may be the most confused by all the changes going on in your world. Some likely won't understand the permanence of the new situation. Others may worry that you or their other parent will one day "stop loving" them and disappear.

They need plenty of reassurance that both of their parents will always love them.

Grade-schoolers

Children this age sometimes blame themselves for their parents' divorce. They may also think that they can somehow fix what went wrong in your relationship with your ex.

You need to reassure them that they are not at fault and gently help them understand that nothing will magically restore the marriage.

Teens

Teenagers may get angry at the disruptions in their lives. They are also the most likely to "pick a side" and lash out at the parent they blame for the divorce.

You can minimize the hostility your teen feels by keeping your relationship with their other parent private. Don't make the mistake of confiding in your teen about the marital problems that led to your divorce.

In all three cases, your kids will recover best if you and your ex-spouse commit to putting aside your difference when it comes to parenting. As difficult as it can be to put your conflicts aside, you need to commit to presenting a united front when it comes to discipline, routines and teaching the kids good coping skills for their frustrations. Your marriage may be over, but parenting is a lifelong commitment. Working out an effective, detailed parenting agreement can be key to your success.

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