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Child custody and divorceBecause January has been named International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Divorce Tool Box founder and Certified Divorce and Family Mediator Audrey Silcox offers 8 tips good for any month to help parents keep focused on their children before and after a divorce. Her extensive experience in high-conflict cases within the judicial system has shown that parents who do so are much more successful at transitioning into the life of co-parenting. With over a million children affected by divorce in the U.S. each year, Silcox says that child-centered divorce is vital for parents, their children, and society as a whole, both now and in the future.

January has been named International Child-Centered Divorce Month because more divorces are filed during that month than any other. Six years ago, author and divorce activist Rosalind Sedacca, initiated National Child-Centered Divorce Month in the U.S., which has grown to cities around the world, where divorce experts are offering special educational events including teleseminars, workshops, discussion groups, and coaching aimed for divorced or soon-to-be divorced parents.

One such U.S. expert is Audrey Silcox, a Certified Divorce and Family Mediator who recently founded Divorce Tool Box, a division of Sildrey Corporation. After 16 years of working with divorcing couples, including as a court-appointed mediator, she has witnessed first-hand how essential customized parenting plans can be for children’s present and future well-being both before and after a divorce. Via online divorce sessions, she makes her expertise available to individuals or couples before or after they enter the legal arena which can save her clients time, money, and needless additional heartache and expense later if such plans are not carefully thought out.

Says Silcox, “When children are involved in divorce, it is important to customize a custody and co-parenting plan that will withstand the test of time, minimizing changes in parents’ lives while also reducing the psychological impact of divorce in their children’s lives. In fact, for many couples, the most difficult aspect of divorce is making these custody decisions that will forever change the circumstances and time spent with their children.”

For children, these parental decisions and their aftermath can be even more wrenching. According to the Center for Divorce Education, “research has shown that even five years after the breakup of the family, only about a third of the children affected can be described as doing especially well, meaning that they are able to cope successfully in most areas of life. A final third are still intensely unhappy, dissatisfied with life and moderately to seriously depressed.”

“In my experience,” adds Silcox, I’ve seen children who feel guilty thinking they may have caused their parents’ divorce, other children who strongly desire--despite a divorce being final--that their parents will reconcile, or worst of all, those children who feel trapped in the middle of parental conflict. Clearly, the ability of parents to stay focused on the best interest of their children is of utmost importance.”

To that end, Audrey Silcox offers the following 8 tips to help families not only survive divorce, but also reap the benefits of effective co-parenting.

  1. Children of different ages will perceive and experience changes that divorce brings in different ways due to their age and cognitive ability. Young children may experience regression, for example, while older children may resort to playing the role of caregiver to their parents in order to lend emotional support. In any case, parents should be aware that each child will likely display different reactions to divorce due to the variables of personality, age, and cognitive development.
  2. To keep abreast of children’s concerns about the transitions during and after divorce, parental communication in open discussions with their children is essential. Because a parent may be stunned by a child’s questions, it is certainly advisable to take a few moments before answering their children’s questions. Parents, how you answer these questions about divorce will always be remembered by your child, so please think before you speak.
  3. It is important to maintain relationships by allowing children to feel free to continue loving both parents. While divorce often causes or increases animosity between parents, remember that parents are divorcing each other; children are not divorcing their parents. Allowing children to express love for the parent they are not living with can be accomplished in many ways such as daily phone calls, texts, or emails and remembering special holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or a parent’s birthday by encouraging making or purchasing a gift for the child to present or mail to the other parent.
  4. Aim to make life as normal as possible for the children because they typically desire their lives to be similar to that of their peers. Self-identity through equating how one is similar and different to their peers is normal, and how divorced parents make decisions concerning their children can greatly affect this self-identity. Throughout my 16 years of working in the divorce field, I have heard children complain, for example, how they must have two birthday parties, one hosted by each parent, even though both parents live in the same town. Children have discussed with me how this makes them different from their friends, and how they wish their parents would make just one day a year—such as their birthday—be “normal.”
  5. Ways for the non-custodial parents to stay involved in their children’s lives can include activities such helping with homework, attending extracurricular activities, and daily communication. This type of involvement demonstrates to children that both of their parents, although now divorced, remain involved in their lives and security.
  6. It is best that each parent communicate directly with the other when circumstances about their children arise, instead of sending messages through their children as a go-between. When children verbalize messages from one parent to the other, emotional reactions by the receiving parent can result, causing the child to feel responsible, anxious, or stressed. Parents can avoid this by communicating directly with each other either in person, or by phone, text, or email.
  7. Maintaining similar expectations between homes create consistency which benefits not only children, but also their parents. Children desire boundaries and consistent routines that establish a sense of security as well as known expectations in each home environment. When expectations and routines differ widely, children may play one parent against the other, which some parents may leverage by “giving in” to a child’s wishes, a practice which may come back to haunt a parent as their child matures. Of course, certain boundaries and expectations may need to be revisited over time, as children mature and their needs change.
  8. Unless divorced parents keep conflict to a minimum, their children may feel they have to play the role of mediator between parents. This causes undue guilt and stress for the child who must then carry the extra burden of awareness of adult problems. When a parental discussion involves a disagreement, it is best for both parents and children if parents do not discuss the matter in front of their children or where children can overhear one or both sides of the conversation.

In summary, says Silcox, “Particularly in my work with high-conflict cases within in the judicial system, I’ve seen that parents who keep the focus on their children before and after divorce are much more successful at transitioning into the life of co-parenting, which is vital. With the annual number of divorces now at 1.4 million in the U.S., according to ABC News on May 13, 2011, and according to the Coalition for Divorce Reform, over one million children being affected each year, it’s clear that child-centered divorces are the key to psychological and financial well-being, not only for divorced parents and their children, but also for society as a whole, both now and in the future."

Divorce Tool Box provides assistance for individuals or couples contemplating or currently undergoing divorce. Custody parenting plans, assets and liabilities, division of property and money matters, along with emotional support are some of the issues addressed in our online sessions to help people make wise decisions before entering the legal arena. This guidance can help ease a difficult process as well as save countless hours and costs in legal fees. Visit our website today at www.DivorceToolBox.com to see how we can help your family.

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