No longer together, but parents forever Keeping the lines of communication open in the wake of a divorce

Kids today are busier than ever. Between play dates, karate lessons, soccer practice, homework and dreaded household chores, children often have more than their fair share of pressures. Dealing with divorcing parents can make life even harder.

Parents often fear their children will be harmed because of a divorce. The good news? Research shows that children with divorced parents can lead the same happy lives that children with married parents lead.

By following a few communication “dos” and “don’ts,” you can help yourself, your former partner and most importantly, your children, adjust to a new lifestyle with greater ease.

Do …

  • Use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “You make me feel uncomfortable,” try saying, “I feel uncomfortable.” Using “I” statements is an effective way to communicate without triggering conflict with your former partner.
  • Compromise with your ex-partner whenever possible. Even after a divorce, there still are a lot of issues that couples must work through, especially when children are involved. Parents must learn how to compromise to reach a solution that will best benefit their children. If parents don’t compromise, conflict is bound to happen.
  • Tell the people who care for your children about your divorce. During the early stages of divorce, it is common to see physical and emotional changes in kids. Tell teachers, doctors and babysitters about the divorce so they can help support your children. 
  • Give your children permission to love both parents. Children need to know it is OK to talk about the fun time they had with Mom over the weekend without feeling like they are hurting Dad.

Don’t …

  • Say bad things about your ex-partner. Saying things like, “He is so selfish,” or “She just can’t manage her money,” sends strong messages to children. If you insult someone that your children love, they likely will take this message personally.
  • Discuss finances with your children. Money issues continue to be a leading cause of marital issues for many couples. During divorce, talks surrounding money can grow even more heated. It is important to keep money issues strictly between you and your former partner.
  • Use your child as a source of support. Many children are wise beyond their years. As a parent you must remember that they still are children. Kids should never have to stand in as a counselor for mom or dad.

The bottom line is that your children have two parents who love them dearly. While you may not be able to see eye-to-eye with your former partner, it is critical that you come together to do what is right for life’s greatest gift – your child.

Sandy Stetzer is a visitation program supervisor for Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin.

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