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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...

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."

Through therapy, children can get help dealing with their emotions, learning what they can control. They can learn how to better deal with stress through relaxation and positive thinking. Also, learning communication skills is important -- so they can speak with their parents about the experiences and feelings they're having, Sandler tells WebMD.

Despite the stresses, parents must also keep values in perspective -- and make sure the kids are top priority.

"After divorce, parents are very stressed. It's a very difficult time for them. They're very busy just trying to make ends meet, they're emotionally upset," Sandler tells WebMD.

"Cooperation between parents can easily break down," he says. "Parents do things out of guilt or to show they're better than the other. All this conflict and animosity undermines their relationship with their kids. That's something kids should have no part in. It's not anything they can do about, and it only makes the kid feel worse and have more problems."

"There's something special about the holidays -- they're symbolic for us," says Sandler. "They're all about family."

It's your choice: "You can be angry and mourn the family that was, or you can establish new rituals," he tells WebMD. "I'm a strong believer in rituals. I think it's one of the things a family can do. It shows respect for each other's time, knowing that both mom and dad are important to the child. It doesn't matter who gets the kids for Christmas or Thanksgiving -- both have rituals, but both give the same message -- that there are a lot of people that care about the child and want to share it."

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