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Minding Children's Feelings During Divorce

With January being the most prevalent month for divorces to be initiated, many of the unnamed (and silent) victims of divorce are children. In so many instances, children are not given a voice (or a choice) in the breakup of their families and are forced to live with the reality of being shuttled between homes.

With that said, it is important for divorcing parents to consider the wishes of their children. All too often parents (for whatever reason) are inclined to use children as pawns to get what they want, or to hold them hostage in an attempt to get a favorable financial settlement. Both motivations are harmful to children.

First, children have the unique capacity to blame themselves for their parents' marital problems. So saying that a child cannot see a parent may appear as if they are being punished for bad behavior or some other fault that they are responsible for (but should not be). Second, putting children in the middle of custody disputes (or making them choose between parents) can put an untenable burden on children and can be psychologically damaging.

Moreover, children of divorce can be subject to difficult challenges growing up, as studies show that they can have problems in school, have weaker relationships with parents and can even develop health problems due to stress. Because of this, it is critical that parents avoid putting kids on the spot or questioning them in a way that simply validates their feelings. Instead, listening to children and reassuring them is key to their well-being.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com, "What kids want for New Year's," Beverly Willett, January 7, 2014

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