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Help your kids reduce stress with these post-divorce parenting tips

It's no secret that a divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person can ever go through. When a marriage breaks up, there is much more to deal with than dividing up property and adapting to a new way of life. Often, the emotional fallout from a divorce is much more difficult to cope with than any of the financial or logistical consequences.

This is even more true for children than it is for adults. Whatever stress former spouses might feel at the end of a marriage, their children feel it exponentially more so. As such, it is extremely important for divorcing spouses to take steps to insulate their children from the emotional turmoil of divorce as much as possible.

The best way to do this is to focus on creating a strong co-parenting relationship. Children need to be shown — and not just told — that they are loved by both their parents. They don't want to feel like another source of conflict in your life, but they probably will feel that way if they know that you and your ex are fighting over parenting issues.

Of course, every family is different, and there is no guaranteed way to help children weather a divorce. With that said, consider starting with the following tips:

  • Make a plan: As part of your divorce settlement, consider drafting a comprehensive child custody and co-parenting agreement with your ex-spouse. By agreeing to important things beforehand - like how holidays will be handled or who will be responsible for paying certain expenses - you can help stave off conflict down the road.
  • Be respectful: Even if you are very angry at your ex-spouse, be respectful for the sake of you children. This means being friendly with each other when you have to be together, being civil when you disagree and refraining from saying anything negative about (or to) your ex when your children are around.
  • Don't restrict relationships: It's hard to let your children go after living with them full time. It's hard for your kids, too. But, they need to learn to develop quality relationship with both parents. Do your best to not make your children feel bad for wanting to spend time with your ex, and don't pepper them with questions when they get home.
  • Be wary of competition: Parenting - even after a divorce - is a team effort, not a competition. Don't try to "one up" your ex with increasingly extravagant activities or purchases. On birthdays and holidays, it can be especially helpful to agree upon some spending limits in advance.

These are just a few of the ways you can help minimize the stress for children after a divorce. If you have any concerns about child custody or co-parenting — either before or after the divorce is finalized — it is always a good idea to discuss those with your family law attorney.