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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Preparing Kids For Divorce and Leaving The Family Home

When divorce becomes a huge heavy cloud that hangs over you all day – every day – when those heavy clouds seep into your dreams at night and everything from where to live and how to live, from what to tell the children, to how to prepare them for the inevitable changes, that cloud becomes a somber gray, and nothing can completely prepare you for the changes you are about to encounter.

But some positive thinking can help you and your children get through the hard times. From personal experience, I offer the following advice.

• SHOW your kids that you love them – be affectionate. You are going through a difficult time, and it will be easy for you to slip into self-destruct mode.

• PAY ATTENTION to your children! They need you now more than ever.

• Do NOT speak about the absent parent with condescension, hatred, or ill will. It will come back to haunt you. Maybe not right away, but in years to come, they will learn not to trust you, even if the absent parent was abusive.

• Stress the positive aspects of living in two homes – more friends, two bedrooms, two holidays, two birthdays, etc.

• TALK to your children about your and their expectations. Address their concerns. Recognize their sadness. Console them.

• ALLOW them to participate in the decoration of their own rooms.  ASK them how they want it to look, what colors they want on their walls.

• ACKNOWLEDGE that you know how much they will miss their other parent. And EXPLAIN in age-appropriate terms why you can't stay with their other parent any longer.

• LET THEM KNOW, with perfect clarity, that the divorce is NOT their fault, that it has nothing at all to do with them, that it was nothing they did or said, and that the reason you are divorcing is because of something between you and the other parent. Children tend to blame themselves and can become depressed because they believe that if only they had said the right things or acted the right way, the two of you would still be together.

• EXPLAIN to your children that the missing parent loves them, but say it only if it's true. Some people are incapable of expressing love in a way that feels like love. Children KNOW when they don't feel loved, but they often don't understand that the expression of love can be misinterpreted. Children who need hugs and don't receive them will infer that the parent who doesn't hug them also doesn't love them. Some children need to HEAR, "I love you," and without that assurance will believe that the parent doesn't love them. If the other parent truly loves them but does not show love in a way that is acceptable to the child, explain the different ways people show their love for each other. Perhaps the absent parent buys things for the child, because it is the only way the parent knows how to express love.

• MAKE TIME for your children. When your time is limited, either because you have to work two to three jobs, go to school full time – whatever takes you away from them, you have to set aside time to spend with your children. Do your homework with them at the table. Have picnics on the floor. Invite their friends over for sleepovers. Let them know they matter.

• Finally, HELP YOUR CHILDREN prepare for their futures. Get them involved in sports, crafts, activities, support groups, if necessary. Get them excited about learning. Take them to free events around town. Don't let them sulk. Make them the center of your life and focus your attention on creating the best possible life for them. Ask yourself every day, "What can I do today to create happiness for my children?"

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