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Lately, some of my young clients have come from divorced families. They seemed to be faced with the daunting task of having to work through the trials and tribulations of their parent’s separation. The children of divorce usually remember vividly the awful day that their parents split their young lives asunder.

The children worry that now that one parent has departed the scene the other caregiver might also abandon the family.They may be scared and unsure about their future. Often children may have to move from the family home, leave their school and neighbourhood and friends behind.

When parents divorce, it can mean that grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins can be caught in the middle. Families now have to split birthdays, special holidays along family lines. The “Hallmark Card” depiction of the happy extended family is but a distant memory for many of these families.

I remember a very sad grandmother who wanted to know : “What did she do wrong? “Why was she was cut off, cast adrift by her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren? She cried that she was not the blame that her son departed from his family.

Scheduling can be chaotic and conflicts may arise. Monday and Wednesday may be with Dad. Tuesdays and Thursday with Mom. Every second week-end can find the youngsters alternating between homes. Children can miss their pets, favourite toys or homework, having left them behind at one location and not having them easily accessible at the other house.

The child may feel like a ping-pong- ball bouncing between the two households. Power struggles between the parents means that the children’s needs are not given priority.

Children should not be asked to take sides. Family members making negative comments about one of the parents is counter productive.

Children do not need expensive gifts from their parents but rather quality time and love from both mom and dad.
Many youngsters who are the silent victims of divorce, can become angry and upset. They need the emotional roller coaster ride to end. It may take 2-3 years for some families to settle. Children who experience a parent dying develop closure faster with the family support and help.

Children of divorce who find themselves caught in the middle of an ongoing conflict and struggle that doesn’t seem to end can not move on. The consequences of a bitter divorce for children is like unto an open psychic wound that never quite heals.

Children of a difficult divorce can experience negative results in school. It is hard for youngsters to focus and do well with their studies when their home life is unstable. Attendance, attention span, marks can all suffer. When children reach their teenage years, unhealthy coping strategies may develop such as running away, drinking, using drugs, getting into trouble with the law.

It is hard to trust others and develop a positive self concept when your home life has been torn apart.

Here are some suggestions for parents contemplating divorcing.

It is important to maintain a sense of stability for your children. The less change the better. Although the couple’s relationship has ended, the parenting roles remains and you need to be there for your children.

When parents develop new relationships be careful not to introduce them to the children until you are sure that it is serious. Brief, multiple liaisons can be confusing and disruptive for children.

To help your children cope please be aware that constant, reliable, healthy, parenting time helps to heal the wounds of the divorce. It is important to restore a sense of trust to allow your children to have a better chance to grow up emotionally healthy.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com