Helping Children Cope with Divorce: Parent Contact and Conflict

In the post on 5/14/11, we talked about six factors that put children at risk for emotional and behavioral adjustment problems after a divorce. With effort and understanding, parents can have a significant impact on each of these six factors. In this post we'll look at the two factors relating to the child's relationship with his or her parents. Parental loss Exposure to conflicts between parents Parental Loss: Children do best when they feel the tangible love and support of both parents. Ideally this means the child custody agreement specifies that the child have regular contact with each parent. Even if parents live far apart, which is often the case for military parents stationed overseas and for parents who must relocate for work, both parents can take steps to ensure the child does not lose touch with the non-custodial parent by making telephone and/or online video calls a priority part of the child's day. Physical contact is also extremely important. Parent-child time together allows the parent to share their skills, knowledge and interests. When extended family members are involved in those visits, it helps the child see him- or herself as still a part of the larger whole and ensures the child has extended family to draw upon in times of difficulty (just as children do from non-divorced families). Parental Conflict: The benefit of time with a parent can quickly be reversed if parental conflict comes along with it. If dad picks a fight with mom before getting on the phone with the child, if mom yells at dad about child support when he comes to the door, each of these encounters is tremendously stressful for your child. If your marriage has been characterized by a great deal of conflict, talk about this during your divorce negotiations and brainstorm solutions with your child custody lawyer or divorce mediator. If it would be helpful, talk to an experienced child psychologists who focuses on children and divorce to get ideas about how you can avoid conflict in the future. Perhaps the child needs to make the phone call in another room. Perhaps you need to pick up and drop off the child at another location. With creative problem solving and commitment, you can help your child maintain a nurturing and supportive relationship with both parents. Source: Parenting 24/7, "The Effects of Divorce on Children," by Dr. Robert Hughes, Jr.

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