According to a recent National Vital Statistics Report on marriage and divorce, almost one-third of U.S. divorces involve children under the age of 18. While research shows that successful co-parenting arrangements contribute to the well-being of children of divorce, not all couples are able to reach and/or abide by a co-parenting agreement. The common denominator among children who fare well after their parents break up is often a child-centered divorce.
Research shows that if divorcing parents can focus on putting their children first throughout divorce proceedings, everyone tends to fare better. One divorce lawyer even displays photographs of a divorcing couple's children every time they meet with him to remind them to keep their children's needs firmly in mind.
You don't need to entirely set aside your anger, frustration and hurt feelings. You are human, after all, and struggling with something very difficult. But if you can manage to stay focused on your children's wellbeing during divorce and custody proceedings, the end results may be better for everyone.
Tips for a Child-centered Divorce
- Talk to your ex. Direct communication is usually better than going through lawyers and always better than using your children as messengers.
- Don't talk negatively about your ex in front of your children. If you need to vent, seek out a friend or counselor. Nasty comments made about the other parent can be confusing for children or prevent them from retaining a solid bond with you and/or your ex.
- Think of your kids as a unit. Unless one is much older than the others, don't put the pressure of "surrogate parenting" on one of them. They need each other as they are.
- Retain family relationships. You may not be particularly fond of your mother-in-law but she's your children's grandmother. Keeping extended-family relationships open and available for your children reminds them they are loved and wanted.
- Negotiate. Even if your visitation agreement specifies hours, days or other details, be open to occasional scheduling changes; your ex will be much more likely to do the same for you.
By focusing on their children's needs, divorcing parents will discover the whole process can be less complicated than anticipated. After all, most people ultimately want what's best for their children. Consult an experienced family law attorney for more information about child-centered divorce.