While this site is an advocate for happily married families, divorce is a common conversation among all of us—you may know of a family member or friend who is struggling through one. When kids are involved, the situation becomes even more difficult, even in the best of situations and children tend to do better when their parents handle the divorce in a mature and healthy manner.
As such, here are 10 tips you can pass on to anyone that may be going through this type of situation:
1. All children are not created equal. The way one child handles the break up can be completely different than their sibling. Be sensitive to the temperament and personality of each individual child and realize that there is no "cookie cutter" method to helping a child grieve.
2. Don't burden a child with your own anger. Use good judgment when determining how much to divulge to your child. Your seven-year-old child does not need to know details of infidelity or the fact the one of his parents has fallen out of love with the other. Explain to your child that while the divorce will come with changes, you as a parent will do everything possible to keep their life as stable and peaceful as possible. Make sure and follow through with your promise.
3. Emphasize to your child that he or she is not the reason for the divorce. Children tend to blame themselves or think there must have been something they could have done differently to garner a alternative outcome. Explain to your child that the decision has nothing to do with him or her and go out of your way to keep any angry words regarding your ex-spouse out the conversation with your child.
4. Allow your child to show emotion. Children often don't know how to express their emotions and break down and act up in unpredictable ways. Allow your child to share their emotions and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you feel your child could benefit.
5. Let your child know that he or she is your first priority. It is not unusual to act out of character while going through a divorce, but keep in mind that your child is watching every move you make. Stay focused on the long-term health and well-being of your entire family, starting with you and your child or children.
6. Don't use your child as a bargaining tool. Any decision that you make should be handled in a way that your child is not influenced or affected. Custody battles hurt everyone involved, but can do the most damage to your child.
7. Don't use your child as a substitute spouse. Your child cannot fill your ex's shoes and shouldn't be expected to pick up where your ex left off. Your child needs to continue to spend time with his friends and other family members, even when you are lonely and no one else is around.
8. Keep your judgmental attitude to yourself. When your ex starts to date, refrain from making contrary remarks about his or her new love interest. This sets a child up to feel unnecessarily conflicted and disloyal.
9. Don't be a Disneyland dad (or mom). Agree in advance on parenting styles and when it is your turn to parent and abide by the agreed upon rules, do so. Attempting to "buy" your child's love is not healthy or necessary if you are spending quality time with your child and doing your best to raise a responsible child.
10. Most of the time, all children want and need is love. Each child needs some undivided "us" time and attention with each parent and most would trade the best "toys" for a little one-to-one time watching a movie together or going to a ball game with their parent.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @: www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.