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How to help your children cope with divorce

Parents divorce for many reasons, but for kids, growing up in a home rife with tension and unhappiness it is far more damaging than the effect divorce has on them. However, researchers in the United Kingdom suggest that kids raised in a single parent home are more apt to experiment with smoking and alcohol at the age of 11.

Does this mean that you should stay in an unhappy marriage "for the kids?" Not at all. The impact of kids growing up in intact, but unhappy marriages is a real concern. Some believe that children who grow up in an unhappy two-parent home will most likely find themselves in similar marital problems. Parents know their kids deserve happiness throughout their lives - not just during childhood.

So, as a parent, the most important thing you can do for your kids is to give them the extra support they need during and after your divorce.

Five tips for helping children cope

Each year thousands of children experience first-hand the stress and life disruption that accompanies divorce. While most divorces can bring out the worst in parents, mom and dad should work together to make sure the transition to being a child of parents that are no longer together. Kids recover quickly from divorce when relationships are strong between them and both parents.

Here are five tips to consider to help your children cope with your divorce:

  1. It is best to tell your kids that you and your spouse are separating or divorcing together. Reassure your kids that both of you love them and even though their parents will not be living together there will be lots of time for both of you to spend time with them.
  2. In most cases, one parent has physical custody of children to keep up school, sports activities and friends. Consider your child's school and activity schedule when making parenting plans.
  3. It is inevitable that your kids will ask why you are no longer together. Honesty is important. Kids often understand and know more than you think. For younger children, simple honest responses are reassuring, for older children you can be more specific. Never blame one another for separating.
  4. While your teens will put on a brave front, they have questions that are no different than your younger kids - these include: How will the divorce affect them, who will take care of them, how will the new situation work, where will the parent that is leaving live, etc. Make sure you address these questions.
  5. While always letting your kids know that you love them, if your decision is to divorce, let your kids know that it is final. Do not give them false hope.

Using these tips as part of your strategy for talking to your kids about your and their changing life situation can make for a smoother transition.

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