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Helping a child cope with divorce

Parents who choose to divorce are often extremely concerned about how their decision to split will affect a child. It's true that, in the wake of a divorce, a child may act out. It's also true, however, that being exposed and forced to deal with the daily stress of living in a home with two unhappy parents can be extremely damaging to a child's psyche. Therefore, when a marriage is broken, staying together for the sake of a child is not in anyone's best interest.

When parents divorce, a child is often forced to deal with many changes. One or both parents may have new living arrangements, experience financially or emotionally struggles while adjusting to their new single-status and have a new love interest. In the midst of attempting to deal with their own emotional and psychological issues, parents may fail to provide the love, support and reassurance a child desperately needs.

Post-divorce, a child must adjust to a new schedule as dictated by the terms of a child custody agreement. In addition to an actual divorce, a custody agreement often dictates when a child is supposed to be with a certain parent. For some kids, the terms of a child custody agreement serves to reinforce feelings of anger, confusion and loss of control. A child may even internalize these feelings and grow to believe he or she is responsible for the divorce.

From the time parents announce their decision to split, both would be wise to sit down and profess their unconditional love for a child. While it's usually not appropriate for parents to delve into those issues that may have caused a marriage to fail, it is important to make sure a child knows he or she is not to blame.

As a child adjusts to life post-divorce, he or she may experience a wide range of emotions and feelings related to the divorce. Parents, therefore, must commit to reiterate messages of unconditional love and encourage a child to openly communicate even if what they're feeling or thinking is negative or hurtful to a parent. In cases where parents are concerned a child is having a particularly difficult time adjusting to a divorce, it's wise to seek professional advice and assistance.

Source: The Huffington Post, "10 Things All Divorcing Parents Should Say To Their Kids," Sophie Rosen, April 2, 2014