Children and Divorce: Advice for Parents

Divorce does not condemn your children to an unhappy life. Your living arrangements will change but in time you and your children will find happiness in your new lives. You and your former spouse will be connected through your children for the rest of your lives. Help your children accept what has happened and move forward toward a brighter future.

Remember: you are not alone. Each day, thousands of families experience many of the same challenges and frustrations you are dealing with right now. Your lives may be changing, but that does not mean that things need to be bad. Children need two loving and involved parents who will be dedicated to providing life-long love and support. Parents and children must work together to form a new kind of family.

  • Tell your children you love them.
  • Make sure your children know that it is okay to love the other parent.
  • Be willing to talk about your children's feelings or encourage them to talk with a teacher, counselor or family friend.
  • Answer your children's questions honestly while avoiding unnecessary details about your relationship with your former spouse.
  • When you make a mistake or lose your temper, admit it and tell your children that you can and will do better tomorrow.
  • Don't argue in front of your children.
  • Don't pump your children for information about the other parent or use your children to carry messages back and forth.
  • Don't speak negatively about your former spouse in front of your children or discourage their communication with the other parent.
  • Reassure your children that they are not to blame for the divorce.
  • Include your former spouse in your children's school activities and special events.
  • Reassure your children that they are loved by both parents and they always will be taken care of.
  • Be consistent and on time when picking up your children for visitation. Make every effort not to cancel plans. If your plans must change, always give your children and your former spouse as much notice as possible.
  • Don't put your children in the middle of your problems or ask them to take sides.
  • Don’t make promises that you can't keep.
  • Don’t use your children as confidants. Let your children be children.
  • Don't ask your children with whom they want to live. That issue is for you and your spouse to solve; it is too much of a burden for children.
  • Be responsible and prompt with child support payments and don’t discuss child support issues with your children.
  • Establish a home in which your children feel comfortable and secure.
  • Develop a workable and cooperative parenting plan that gives your children access to both of you.
  • Give your children permission to have a loving, satisfying relationship with the other parent.
  • Make every effort to agree with your former spouse about discipline. This will help your children feel more secure.
  • Don't compare a child to your former spouse. Remember, your child is an individual. You may like or dislike certain qualities about your former spouse that you see in your child but, such comparisons can be harmful and painful for children.

Reprinted from "Family Advocate," American Bar Association, Vol. 18, No. 4 (1996)


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