Divorce--How to Protect Your Children

by Ed Sherman, Divorce Expert Attorney

Fighting over your kids—custody, visitation, parenting—is the worst possible thing that can happen to your or your kids. It's always ugly. Studies show that harm to children is more closely related to conflict after the divorce. Everyone has conflict before and during a divorce, but if you want to protect your children, get finished with the conflict and resolve it, at least within yourself, as quickly as possible. Children learn much more by what you model than by what you say. By continuing conflict long after the divorce, you are teaching your children by your actions that problems can't be solved.

Children need their relationship with both parents. There is a bonding between parent and child that cannot easily be replaced by a surrogate parent or stepparent. To protect the essential parent-child relationship, you have to insulate children from your own conflict with their other parent. The divorce is not their problem; it's yours. Being a bad wife or husband does not make your spouse a bad parent. So don't hold the children hostage - they are not pawns or bartering pieces in your game. When it comes to the parenting schedule, don't bargain with your spouse on any other basis than what will give your children the most stability and the best contact with both parents.

The worst thing for the child of a broken home is feeling responsible for the breakup and feeling that loving one parent is a betrayal of the other. These feelings cause children intense stress and insecurity. To protect your child from almost unbearable pain, don't say anything bad about the other parent in front of the child; don't undermine or interfere in any way with the child's relationship with or love for the other parent; don't put the child in a position of having to take sides. Do encourage every possible kind of constructive relationship your child can have with your ex-mate. Let the children know that you are happy when they have a good, loving time with their other parent.

Kids can really get on your nerves at a time like this, and single parenting is enough to overwhelm any normal person. You are not Superman or Mary Marvel, and kids are not designed to be raised by one lone person. You need help and support, and you need time off from the kids. Make a point of getting help from family, friends and the many parent support groups and family service agencies throughout the United States. Get references to groups in your area by calling temples, churches or social service agencies.

For more information on how to make your divorce go as smoothly as possible (and thus make it easier on your children), read:

What Divorce is Really About
Divorce--Obstacles to Agreement
Divorce--Overcoming Obstacles to Agreement
Divorce--Negotiating Agreement
Divorce--Ten Ways to Divide Property Without a Fight
Divorce--When the Date of Separation Matters
Divorce--Who Can Help?

Copyright 2005 Ed Sherman


Ed Sherman is a family law attorney, divorce expert, and founder of Nolo Press. He started the self-help law movement in 1971 when he published the first edition of How to Do Your Own Divorce, and founded the paralegal industry in 1973. With more than a million books sold, Ed has saved the public billions of dollars in legal fees while making divorce go more smoothly and easily for millions of readers. You can order his books from www.nolodivorce.com or by calling (800) 464-5502.