TIPS FOR PARENTS INVOLVED IN CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDINGS
Whether parents are married and divorcing, or not married and separating, this is a traumatic time for the children involved. They not only pick up on the stress and emotions of their parents, but they also experience their own questions, fears, and confusion. It does not matter whether a child is two, twelve, or sixteen, this is a difficult time in his or her life. How you cope and interact with your child will have significant impact on how your child copes. Following are some suggestions for how to help your child cope when parents are separating:
· Do not ask your child to take sides – no child should have to choose between parents. This puts extreme stress on a child and can do lasting damage.
· Do not talk badly about the child’s other parent in front of the child, and do not let others do so. It is very important that your child continues to have love and respect both parents.
· Do not use your child as a sounding board for the issues and causes of the breakup of the parents. It is important to be honest at what is happening, but the underlying “causes” should not be hashed out in front of the child.
· Maintain your own composure and emotional balance as much as possible. Try to keep life as balanced and normal as possible. Laugh when you can and try to keep a sense of humor. Your child will pick up on your words and actions, and the stronger you can be the more even you can keep the world for your child.
· Think first of your child’s present and future emotional and mental wellbeing before you speak or act. This can be difficult – you are going through an emotional process as well – but this is very important for your child’s wellbeing.
· Make sure to convey through actions and words that your child is not to blame for what is happening and continues to have two loving parents. Reassure your child that he or she is not losing either parent, and help them not feel abandoned or rejected.