Google+ Elementary School Counselor blog, by Scott Ertl, Elementary School Counselor: 5 Top Tips For Parents Going Through A Divorce

Monday, January 13, 2014

5 Top Tips For Parents Going Through A Divorce

Elementary School Counselor gives top 5 Divorce Tips for Parents
When I talk with students and they tell me about their parents splitting up, I call both parents and request to meet with them to share some suggestions to help them go through their separation with the least amount of damage to their child as possible. I emphasize that I am not a marriage counselor, but I do have experience working with children going through divorce and that I have seen a lot of drama that children can avoid if their parents had called a "truce" in certain areas for the sake of their children.

Many times, parents are surprised that I offer to meet with them and they are curious what I have to offer. Sometimes I can only meet with one parent. If possible, I ask the child if there is anything they want me to tell their parents.

This is what I offer:

1) Never put the child in the middle. Don't tell your child to deliver a message, money, or envelope to the other parent. Call, text, mail or deliver the information or check directly. Children don't need to be "the messenger" at all. They take it personally when you roll your eyes or sigh to them--which was intended for the other parent.

2) No secrets. Don't tell your child to keep a secret from their other parent. They have enough going on in their lives right now. Don't expose them to any event (or person) that the other parent shouldn't know about.

3) Don't bad-mouth their other parent. Even though you may be thinking of them as your "ex," they are still your child's other parent--who is 1/2 of their DNA. Don't talk negatively about your child's other parent to friends, family or anyone in front of your child. Instead, tell your child positive things about their other parent and fun memories about their past.
4) Show your love. Your child will miss you when you are not around. Write them a note and tell them how much you love them. Tell your child how proud you are of all of their accomplishments and how you will always be there for them. Also, give them a photo of both of you. Yes, go to the mall and spend the $5 in the photo booth for a photo strip to look at when they miss you. Your child will cherish this more than you imagine. (You'll probably want a duplicate for yourself for when you miss your child as well.)
Elementary school counselor gives top 5 tips for parents going through a divorce
5)  Keep your promises. Follow-through on what you say that you are going to do. Don't casually say that you are going to do something together. Your child will look forward to seeing you all week and they will be crushed that you forgot. Make plans and keep them--or don't make the plans at all. Broken promises breed distrust, worry, and sadness. Also, don't just pop in and out of their lives. That's rude, disrespectful and doesn't model any sense of responsibility. They want to look forward to being with you. Don't feel that you need to lavish them with gifts or special jam-packed weekends. Spend time talking, playing, listening, and enjoying time together. Be sure to have one-on-one time with your child. They miss you.

After sharing these 5 tips with parents, I ask if they can say something positive about the other parent right now. I encourage them to focus on the positives to help them move forward. I encourage them that their child will be very successful in their life when they know their parents care about them and will support them 100%. 

At the close of the session with the parents, I ask if they have any questions for me and if it was helpful to have a place to call a "truce." Parents need a sense of hope without any judgment and they appreciate the opportunity for unbiased support.

If you'd like, feel free to copy the above 5 tips on this reproducible handout. You can print 2 per page: 5 Divorce Tips for Parents

More Divorce Tips?? Write in the "Comments" section below:

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