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Guidelines for Parents During and After Divorce

As experienced divorce and child custody attorneys, we know that continuing parental conflict will damage your children's lives. Your children will thrive after the dissolution of your marriage only if you and your spouse eliminate conflict. We urge you to show that you love your children more than you hate your spouse.

These guidelines will be more effective if you and your spouse are able to communicate effectively regarding the children. One reason marriages break up is because of an inability of the spouses to communicate and come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Communication skills can be learned with the assistance of trained professionals. If communication is a problem, concentrate on developing a communication plan. This will minimize misunderstandings and hostilities.

The following suggestions are made to help you and your children in this time of psychological and emotional stress:

Manage Your Emotions

  • Think of your children's well-being before acting. This will be difficult because of your own feelings, needs and emotions. Get professional help.
  • Concentrate on parenting while you are with the children. Maintain your own composure and emotional balance as much as possible. Laugh when you can and try to keep a sense of humor.
  • Set aside time to mourn and be sad each day when the children are asleep or not at home. Keep your composure around the children at all times.
  • Curb anger at your ex. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children far more than the dissolution itself. The feelings you show are more important than the words you use. Watch your body language and tone of voice, as well as what you say.
  • Do not overlook the fact that you are only human and admit it. You will not be able to make a 100% score on being the perfect parent (no one ever does in good or bad times). Resolve to attempt to improve day by day.

Keep the Other Parent informed

  • Keep the other parent informed and involved in the children's lives. E-mail and fax information frequently. Stick to facts.
  • Give the other parent copies of all notices and make all appointments when the other parent can attend, if possible, regardless of whether the parent actually attends. The other parent may never have wanted this information before and wants it now.
  • Keep a pad and pencil and a manila envelope near the refrigerator. If the child has information or an accomplishment, write it down immediately, so that all can remember to tell the other parent. This shows the child that you respect the other parent. You can put copies of notices in this envelope as well as copies of some schoolwork and artwork for the child to take to the other parent. Make this practice reciprocal; it should not include messages between parents or money exchange — nothing to cause stress or difficulty for the child.

Provide Stability and Reassurance

  • Allow yourself and your children time for readjustment. Convalescence from an emotional operation, such as dissolution of marriage, is essential.
  • Remember the best parts of your marriage. Remember the skills and positive attributes of the other parent. Your child is one-half mother and one-half father and is a product of the marriage. Share the good things with your children to build self-esteem and use them constructively.
  • Assure your children that they are not to blame for the break-up and that they are not being rejected or abandoned. Children, especially the young ones, often mistakenly feel they have done something wrong and believe that the problems in the family are the result of their own misdeeds. Small children may feel that some action or secret wish of theirs has caused the trouble between parents. Explain to them that they are not going to lose their mom or dad.
  • Try not to upset the children's routine too abruptly. Children need a sense of continuity and it is disturbing to them if they must cope with too many changes all at once.
  • Marriage breakdown is always hard on the children. They may not always show their distress or realize at first what this will mean to them. Parents should be direct and simple in telling children what is happening and why, and in a way a child can understand and digest. This will vary with the circumstances and with each child's age and comprehension. The worst course is to try to hush things up and make a child feel he or she must not talk or even think about what he or she sees is going on. The child must be allowed to express unhappy feelings. If the child asks questions, explanations should be brief, prompt, direct, and honest.
  • Don't let the guilt you may feel about the marriage breakdown interfere with disciplining the children. Children need and want to know quite clearly what is expected of them. Parents must be ready to say "NO" when necessary.
  • Offer the children the opportunity for professional assistance.

Do Not Draw Children into the Conflict or Adult Worries

  • Refrain from voicing criticism of the other parent. It is difficult, but absolutely necessary. For a child's healthy development, it is important for him to respect both parents and believe both parents respect each other, even if that is not the truth.
  • Do not force or encourage your children to take sides. To do so encourages frustration, guilt and resentment.
  • Allow your children to be children. Do not confide in them, whatever their age.
  • Do not discuss finances with the children. Dissolution of marriage often leads to financial pressures on both parents. Never mention payment or non-payment of support.
  • Always remember that doing the right thing often is not immediately rewarded. However, doing the right thing will have a positive and lasting impact upon your children, and only serve to enhance your relationship with them, and the love they fell for you as they mature and grow.

Our Accomplished St. Charles Custody Lawyers Offer Help with Your Case

If you would like to have your case evaluated by an experienced Illinois child custody lawyer, we welcome you to contact Weiler & Lengle. Our St. Charles, Illinois law firm serves families throughout the Tri-City / Fox River Valley area. Our child custody lawyers have many years of experience advocating for parents during and after divorce.

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