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The Pain of Post-Divorce Parenting

Easing the Pain
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Don't interrogate

Another common mistake parents make is trying to find out about the other parent through the child. When you ask, "How was the weekend at mom's/dad's?" make sure your motivation is to hear about the child's visit, not to find out about your ex's love life. "Children are very perceptive and they know the difference," says Swinney. The unintended message the child gets is, "I don't care about what is happening in your life as much as I care about what your mother/father is doing."

Avoid confessions

Talking to your kids about some details of the divorce is necessary, but avoid leaning on them for emotional support - even if they don't seem to mind. "Kids just don't know what to do with that information," says Harwood. Instead, focus on being there to listen to their feelings, but find another adult to talk to about your own.

Ask, don't tell

"Your child is your best resource," says Jennifer Lewis, MD, co-author of the book Don't Divorce Your Children. Instead of telling children they are not responsible for divorce, ask them if they feel responsible, and then listen to what they say, she tells WebMD. The same goes for requesting their input on visitation schedules and other decisions. Just because you ask doesn't mean you have to agree to every request, but at least the children feel included, and you know what's important to them.

Avoid prolonged legal battles

"Lawyers are paid by the hour," says Robert Billingham, PhD, an associate professor of human development and family studies at Indiana University and a divorce researcher. "It's not in their best interest to settle things quickly." Courts often offer free or low-cost mediation, a process in which one lawyer or paralegal works with both parents to settle the details of a divorce. This process allows the couple to peacefully agree on most decisions, such as custody, visitation, and support, rather than leaving these issues up to courts or lawyers. "A lawyer can always look over the agreement to make sure it is fair before you sign," says Harwood.

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