Adapted from material developed by Sharon Baker for use in her family counseling practice in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
1. Tell children the truth in simple terms with simple explanations. Tell them where their other parent has gone.
2. Reassure them that they will continue to be taken care of and that they will be safe and secure.
3. Your children will see that parents can stop loving each other. Reassure them that a parent’s love for a child is a special kind that never stops.
4. Spend time with each child individually. Whether you have custody or visitation, the most important thing to the child is your individual relationship with that child. Build the best relationship you can in your circumstances. The future is built of many tiny moments.
5. Children may feel responsible for causing the divorce. Reassure them that they are not to blame. They may also feel that it is their responsibility to bring their parents back together. Let them know that your decision is final and will have to be accepted.
6. Often divorcing parents feel guilty and become overindulgent. Give your child love, but also give limits.
7. Your child is still a child and can’t become the man of the house or a little mother. Continue to be a parent to your child. Seek other adults to fill your own need for companionship.
8. Avoid situations that place a child in the impossible position of choosing between parents:
– Don’t use your child as a way to get back at your spouse. Children can be terribly wounded when caught in a crossfire.
– Don’t say anything bad about the other parent in earshot of a child.
– Don’t say or do anything that might discourage the child from spending time with the other parent.
– Don’t encourage a child to take sides.
9. You and your former spouse will continue to be the parents of your children for life. Pledge to cooperate responsibly toward the growth and development of your children as an expression of your mutual love for them.
10. Be patient and understanding with your children. Be patient and understanding with yourself.