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Health & Parenting

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Children Coping With Divorce

Nurturing helps kids feel secure and keeps them out of trouble.

How Can You Help Children Cope? continued...

"The benefits were particularly found for those kids who had more problems when came into problem and those where divorce had more conflict, more stress -- which is very important," Sandler tells WebMD.

Developing a warm, friendly feeling within the new family is essential, he says.

One suggestion: "Create stable, positive activities -- family fun time -- something the whole family does as a group every week. The entire family negotiates it, because let's face it, 10-year-olds and 15-year-olds enjoy different things. The attitude is, we'll do my favorite thing next week, if we do yours this week."

When families do something active, something inexpensive, it's easier to continue the tradition every week, says Sandler. "The critical thing is, you're creating a stable routine. It gives kids the message that parents are giving their most valuable resource -- themselves, their time, and there's no substitute for that." Because everyone agrees on it, they make a commitment to the family, he says.

Also, kids need quality time -- one-on-one time -- with each parent. Parents need to focus on what kids want to talk about, develop those all-important listening skills.

Discipline is also important, Sandler says. "It means having rules -- consistent and clear rules -- enforcing those rules, monitoring what the child is doing, sticking to the fact that you're the parent. Kids need structure. They need rules. The message is, 'We're going to do it, and you're going to be part of it.'"

The wrong message to send kids: "We're going through a rough time, so you won't have do to schoolwork, you can come home late at night, blow off chores at house," he says. That's when kids become problematic, when they get into trouble.

Kids need help learning how to cope, Sandler says. "There's a lot going on in divorce, a lot they can't control. It's very important that they learn to separate what they can and can't control. If parents are fighting, it means letting go of that -- not trying to change it themselves. They need to deal with their feelings about the fighting, but not try to be the one in the family who stops it from happening."

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