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When Parents Are Not Together

Every kid has rights, particularly when mom and dad are splitting up. Below are some things parents should not forget – and kids should not let them — when the family is in the midst of a breakup.

You have the right to love both of your parents. You also have the right to be loved by both of them. That means you should not feel guilty about wanting to see your dad or your mom at any time. It is important for you to have both parents in your life, particularly during difficult times such as the breakup of your parents.

You do not have to choose one parent over the other. If you have an opinion about which parent you want to live with, let it be known. But nobody can force you to make that choice. If your parents cannot work it out, a judge may make the decision for them.

You are entitled to all the feelings you are having. Don’t be embarrassed by what you are feeling. It is scary when your parents break up, and you are allowed to be scared. Or angry. Or sad. Or whatever.

You have the right to be in a safe environment. This means that nobody is allowed to put you in danger, either physically or emotionally. If one of your parents is hurting you, tell someone – either your other parent or a trusted adult, like a teacher.

You don’t belong in the middle of your parents’ breakup. Sometimes your parents may get so caught up in their own problems that they forget that you are just a kid, and that you cannot handle their adult worries. If they start putting you in the middle of their dispute, remind them that it is their fight, not yours.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are still part of your life. Even if you are living with one parent, you can still see relatives on your other parent’s side. You will always be a part of their lives, even if your parents are not together anymore.

You have the right to be a child. Kids should not worry about adult problems. Concentrate on your schoolwork, your friends, activities, and so on. Your mom and dad just need your love. They can handle the rest.

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, SO DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF.

The Ten Commandments for Single Parents

Thou shalt not be afraid to ask for help from anyone at any time (because the offers sure will not come in by themselves). Thou shalt bring joy into your home no matter what, for joy is free and available to all. Thou shalt realize that this too shall pass, so try to enjoy and make the most out of your life. Sooner than you think, these children will be grown and, believe it or not, you will miss these years with them. Thou shalt try not to speak ill of your ex in front of the kids, for if you do so, it hurts their hearts and souls. If you need to get your anger out, talk to your friends or a therapist out of earshot of the little ones. Thou shalt love your children with all your heart, even when they are occasionally monsters. Thou shalt develop a great sense of humor (if you do not already have one). It is surely the only way you will survive. Thou shalt believe with all your heart and mind that poverty and single parenthood do not have to go hand in hand and that dreams can still come true. Thou shalt be gentle with yourself, take care of yourself, and remember you are doing a super-human job. This will help you to be a better parent. Thou shalt think of yourself as a hero, a star, an outstanding athlete in the sport/epic of single parenthood, and, no matter what, the show must go on! Thou shalt try and remember always that you are not alone and that the rewards of raising a loving child are gifts given to you from God.

Easing the Impact of Divorce

Advice from America’s best experts on divorce and the family:

Recognize that divorce is not something that has to be settled only once, when the breakup occurs. Children, even adult ones, have a recurring need for information and support at life’s major developmental passages. Go out of your way to maintain vigilance and support as a parent. Divorce makes children feel the fragility of emotional bonds. After divorce, children are even more in need of what they couldn’t get before: a sense of their two parents collaborating on their behalf. Continuing conflict is a stress that can derail development. Keep your children connected to the extended family of the noncustodial parent; they need aunts and uncles and grandparents. Think of it as social capital: the more they have, the easier life is for everyone. As children head into adolescence and beyond, explain (generally, not in sordid detail) – why your marriage broke up. Telling the kids about mistakes you made actually helps them feel hopeful. Step up the supervision in adolescence. Speak up – always respectfully, with explanation – if you think your children’s regular friends or romantic partners are unsuitable.


Suggested Reading Resources

Voices of Children of Divorce

By David Royko

Compiled by David Royko, this book talks about issues as diverse as separation, self-blame, visitation, siblings, “Mom and Dad and Dating and Sex,” stepfamilies, money, coping tactics, and fantasies of stalemate reconciliation. Over the course of three years, Royko, a divorce mediator for the Cooks County Court in Chicago, interviewed scores of children, ages 5 to 21. Their moving and insightful comments comprise this book, which is designed as a teaching tool for divorcing parents.

Click Here to Order or Read More

Helping Children Survive Divorce:

What to expect; How to help.

By Dr. Archilbald D. Hart

How can children successfully survive the trauma of divorce? In friendly, heart-to-heart language, Archibald Hart offers divorced parents specific ways to help children cope with the psychological and social damage that comes with divorce.

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Mom’s House, Dad’s House. Making two Homes for Your child.

A complete Guide for parents who are separated, divorced, or remarried.

By Isolina Ricci, PH.D.

Isolina Ricci’s Mom’s House, Dad’s House guides separated, divorced, and remarried parents through the hassles and confusions of setting up a strong, working relationship with the ex-spouse in order to make two loving homes for the kids. This expanded and revised edition (the book was originally published in 1980) includes emotional and legal tools, as well as many reference materials and resources.

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DivorcePoison

By Dr. Richard A. Warshak

Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex, Richard A. Warshak (The Custody Revolution) offers guidance to parents whose exes portray them to their children in a negative light, whether it’s mild, off-the-cuff badmouthing or systematic character assassination. Common psychological wisdom, besides recommending that parents avoid fighting fire with fire, suggests doing nothing. But Warshak has witnessed the feelings of powerlessness and the increasing difficulties that come from doing nothing.

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Step Coupling:

Creating and sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended

By Susan Wisdom, LPC, and Jennifer Green

Love may be sweeter the second time around, but once the bliss of a newfound relationship wears off a little, the reality of being part of a stepfamily sets in. If you are one of the millions of remarried Americans facing the challenge of blending two existing families into one cohesive whole, you are part of a stepcouple-and you know all too well how hard it can be to make your marriage work in sometimes tough terrain.

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Ex-Etiquette for Parents:

Good Behavior after a Divorce or Separation

By Jann Blackstone-Ford M.A. and Sharyl JupeBlackstone-Ford is a divorce and stepfamily mediator who married Jupe’s first husband. Together, they’ve written a thoughtful, well-informed guide to practicing good behavior after a divorce or separation. Their combined experiences as wife and ex-wife, along with Blackstone-Ford’s professional expertise, allow them to expound on a number of situations. Indeed, it seems they cover all the bases: introducing a new romantic interest to your ex, interacting with a “counterpartner” (i.e., the ex or new partner) when there’s been an affair, handling attraction among stepsiblings, dealing with an absentee parent who resurfaces and more. Relations between spouses and exes can often be fraught with complications, and confused or frustrated readers will find much of value here.

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The Co-Parenting Survival Guide-Letting of Conflict after a Difficult Divorce

By Elizabeth S. Thayer, Ph. D. and Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D

When couples have children, an acrimonious divorce can be painful for everyone involved. Couples can bear enormous resentment, anger and disappointment toward each other yet they still have to collaborate on one of the most complicated and difficult jobs in the world: child-rearing. Too often the intricacies of visitation, holiday plans and differences over discipline are left to lawyers, escalating the antagonism. Psychologists Elizabeth S. Thayer and Jeffrey Zimmerman argue that it doesn’t have to be that way, and in The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce they help parents work harmoniously with their exes.

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Joint Custody with a Jerk-Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex

By Julie A. Ross, M.A. and Judy Corcoran

Parenting is difficult enough in a family where the two parents love and respect each other. In divorce, where the respect has diminished and the love has often turned into intense dislike, co-parenting cane drive on or both parents to the brink of insanity. Joint Custody with a Jerk offers many proven communication techniques that will help you deal with your difficult ex-husband or ex-wife by describing examples of common problems and teaching you to examine your role in these sticky situations. These strategies for effective mediation are easy to apply, down-to-earth, and innovative.

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Additional Reading

Does Wednesday Mean Mom’s House Or Dad’s?

By Marc J. Ackerman MD

The Parents Book About Divorce

By Richard A. Gardner MD

Helping Your Grandchildren Through Their Parents’ Divorce

By Joan Scharager Cohen

The Essential Grandparents Guide To Divorce:Making A Difference In The Family

By Dr. Lillian Carson

Divorced But Still My Parents

By Shirley Thomas Ph.D. and Dorothy Rankin

Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce

By M. Gary Neuman

How It Feels When Parents Divorce

By Jill Krementz