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Top 10 Tips For Helping Children Through a Divorce

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By Vanessa Fox, partner and head of family law at hlw Keeble Hawson LLP

  1. hlw Keeble Hawson LogoWhen you sit down to tell children about a separation or divorce, it is best if parents can do this together. If discussions have to be separate then agree what you will each say beforehand so that children have a consistent message. Keep explanations simple and try to avoid blaming each other.
  2. Put your children’s welfare, not your own, at the forefront of your mind and avoid unnecessary squabbles over trivial issues with the other parent where possible. Try to look at each situation through your children’s eyes, whilst continuing to be the parent.
  3. Try to be as fair and as flexible with the other parent as possible about children issues, whilst not messing each other around with last minute changes of plan. A routine is helpful for children, but it needn’t become a straitjacket.
  4. Try to agree some parenting ground rules with the other parent, but also try to tolerate some differences in approach without compromising on issues that in your view really matter.
  5. Try not to get in a blaming situation with the other parent and give each other as much notice as possible with any problems that will inevitably arise from time to time regarding contact issues. This will help the children understand that they need to see both parents.
  6. Reassure your children that you love them and that they are not to blame. Children are entitled to continue to love both parents.
  7. Explain in simple terms how their lives will change, particularly major decisions such as where they will live and how often they will see each parent. Be prepared to consider changes to the routine you have agreed with the other parent if your children want to change the arrangements (particularly teenagers).
  8. Listen to your children and make time for them, giving them your full attention, and turn off mobile phones when you spend time with them. Don’t force your child to talk to you, but reassure him or her that you are there to listen when they are ready.
  9. Keep your own personal issues and feelings in connection with the separation out of any discussions with your children and focus on how they are feeling.
  10. Try to counter the negative impact of separation or divorce with positive statements about the children such as praising children for achievements at school or helping around the home.
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