Divorce, Kids and Custody: Tips to Help You Through It
Divorce is never an easy thing, especially for the children involved. As adults going through divorce, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our needs and we fail to see how our decisions and actions affect those around us and sometimes lose touch with their needs.
So what do our kids need? In Dr. Phil’s book “Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family,” he lists 6 things kids need and gives some great advice on how to meet those needs:
- Dr. Phil feels this will probably be their greatest need, because “their sense of belonging to the family has been shattered.” They may also, in their attempt to understand what’s going on, try to take on blame for the breakup. “If only I hadn’t…Mommy & Daddy would still be together.” Kids need to understand that they are still a priority.
- Assurance of Safety. Kids may begin to question their own safety. Dr. Phil suggests that parents “maintain a normal pace, boundaries and routines,” so that although things are changing, their world is still predictable.
- Freedom from guilt or blame for the divorce. It’s important that kids understand that they had nothing to do with the breakup.
- Need for structure. According to Dr. Phil, kids will push harder than usual because their world is falling apart. At this time, consistent discipline and appropriate rewards are very important.
- Need for a stable parent who has the strength to conduct business. Kids need to see the parent being strong so that they can relax.
- Need to let kids be kids. I’ve seen this too many times so I’m going to just quote Dr. Phil here rather than synopsize: “Children should not be given the job of healing your pain. Too often, children serve either as armor or as saviors for their parents in crisis. They don’t need to be dealing with adult issues, and should not know too much about what’s going on between you and your ex-spouse.”
If custody is going to be an issue solved in court, here’s a list of things to think about and do:
- Get the best family law attorney you can afford, and ask questions: what factors are important in gaining temporary custody of my children? What are the consequences of moving out of my house and giving temporary child custody to the other parent? If I lose temporary child custody, what should I do to gain or improve my situation and get a better permanent custody arrangement? These are all things that are important to know (“How Can I Prepare Myself for a Custody Battle?” cadivorce.com).
- Keep custody and child support discussions separate (“Custody Battles: The Top Five Things Dads Should Know Before Setting Foot in Court” huffingtonpost.com)
- Don’t separate the child from other members of your ex’s family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles.
- Do encourage a relationship with the child and your ex — a child needs both parents.
- Be mindful of and obey at any cost any custody orders issued by the court.
- Do not badmouth your ex-spouse’s family members, as your child is related to them.
- Never withhold child support to punish the other parent — you are only depriving your child.
- Respect the privacy rights that each parent has when your ex is with the child.
- Do not try to control what happens with the child while at your ex’s — assuming the child is not in danger.
- Don’t take the child out of town without a written consent from the other parent or a court order.
- Avoid showing your anger about legal issues or your ex around the child — this is emotionally draining for the child.
- Be willing to accept that what is in the best interest for the child may not be 50/50 or shared custody arrangements (“Are You in a Custody Battle?” www.drphil.com)
Written by: Tricia Doane, Rust Built, Marketing Services