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Tips for Divorcing Parents

Tips for Divorcing Parents
by Christina Carson-Sacco, Psy.D.

So you find yourself going through the divorce process. If you are like most parents, you’re concerned about how to minimize the stress on your children and are aware that how you handle the divorce could greatly affect them.  Though many of these tips are not easy to follow, hopefully they will give you guidance during this challenging time.

Telling your child about the divorce is difficult and needs to be handled sensitively. Both parents should set aside their own feelings and deliver the message together, in an age appropriate manner, simply, and without any blaming or anger. Focus on your child’s needs at this time.
Stress that even if you are divorced, that you will never stop loving your child and will always be her parents. Sometimes children worry that if parent’s can stop loving each other, then maybe they can stop loving them.
Stress that they did not cause the divorce. Often, children assume things are about them. They may have overheard you arguing about them. Be clear that there is nothing they could have done to prevent the divorce.
Realize that all children have different reactions. Some will be very upset, while others may seem to have little reaction. Children may have specific questions about how the divorce will affect them. You may not have the answers, but you can assure them that you will do your best and that the family will get through this.
Set aside your feelings toward your former spouse, so that you both can focus on what’s best for your children. Let go of control and the need to ‘win.’ Think of it as a business relationship, which may make it easier to be polite, communicate effectively, compromise, and remember that the other parent loves the children and is doing their best.
Never criticize the other parent to or around your children.  Know that children are always listening and even at a young age, understand that they are made up of half of each parent.  Putting down your former spouse can damage your child’s self-esteem, as they can feel you don’t like of a part of them.
Refrain from using your child as a messenger. It is tempting to ask a child to relay a message or to report what is happening at the other house. However, this puts strain on your child and they can feel trapped in the middle.
Do not fight or argue in front of your children (or within earshot.)  Your fighting can be frightening. Role model appropriate expressions of feelings in front of them.
Do not discuss money matters with your child, no matter the age.  If the child is concerned, assure her that the adults will make sure she is taken care of. If you are ordered to pay child support, do so in a timely manner.
Stability in home and school is not always possible, but it is the ideal. If you have to move, maintain rituals, relationships with friends and extended family, or activities to create continuity.
Foster a healthy relationship between the child and their other parent, as well as that side of the family. Remind the child that even if their parent does things differently than you or disappoints them, they love them.
Transfers can be difficult for everyone. Understand that on transition days, your child is likely to be a little “off.” Strive to be courteous, be on time, and bring all the things your child needs for his stay. Do not linger or use this time to work out conflicts.
Out of guilt or fear of the child liking the other parent more, some parents will forgo rules and limits, or will buy their children lots of gifts.  This strategy will backfire, as it undermines your authority and is not in the best interest of your child.
Try to create as much consistency as possible. No two households will run exactly the same, and kids will adjust. Try to avoid power struggles with the other parent and do not disparage their parenting around your child. Unless agreed upon ahead of time, do not expect the other parent to carry out a punishment you’ve given the child. If you are having difficulty co-parenting effectively, consider working with a psychologist on ways to better co-parent.
Find a support system and take care of yourself.  It is normal to grieve the end of your marriage. If you are having trouble sleeping, eating, are relying on drugs or alcohol, having significant mood issues or need unbiased support, call a psychologist. Surround yourself with people who will support you and encourage a healthy divorce. Never use your children as confidants, caretakers, or companions. Remember, caring for your children means making sure you are a healthy, as well.

Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco is a psychologist in private practice.  To learn more about her work, visit her website at www.TheCenterInWarrington.com.

Annual BIAPA Conference

Are you planning on attending the Annual BIAPA Conference in Lancaster? They offer family and survivor scholarships to cover the cost of the conference.

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If you are a family member, survivor, or care provider please click here:

2017 Scholarship Information & Application

If you don’t already know about the Brain Injury conference, please visit the BIAPA website for more information.

4 Ways to Beat the New Year’s Blues

Well, it’s January. The sparkle and cheer of the holidays have faded and ahead of us lies another, dare I say it? long year. Whatever your feelings about 2017 and what it holds, you probably have some moments where you wish the new year’s blues would fade away. Here are a couple of ideas to get you through the long winter nights and start 2017 off well.

  1. Rinse and Repeat. Remember where you were the last time you laughed really hard or had a really pleasant time? Grab your phone and call up the people you enjoy the most. Book the tickets. Plan a family fun night. Decide to make 2017 a year of joy.
  2. Be well. Each day, try to do one thing you don’t normally do to care for yourself. Could be as small as drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated, or skipping fast food and making a meal for yourself at home. Maybe cut the late night tv and grab some extra zzz’s. Go for a walk with a friend. In time, these positive choices will become habits.
  3. Enter into your environment. Take 5 minutes each day and listen – what do you hear? Maybe you were only half paying attention to a loved one who was telling you something important. What can you see? Perhaps there is something different about the road you travel every day to work or school and you just noticed it! What do you smell or taste? If nothing, perhaps it’s time to make a favorite meal or baked good. Reach out and give a hug to someone who needs it.
  4. Give the gift of your presence. There is only one you and you only get to live today once. Put down your phone and choose to be there for yourself and those around you. If you or someone else are struggling, take the time to relax, journal, or listen. If it is a time of happiness, celebrate! Embrace the moment for whatever it holds.

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions are too lofty – work out every day, or too specific – travel to 5 new states this year. They can leave us feeling inadequate if we miss a day at the gym or only see four new places. Instead, resolve to make 2017 a year to laugh, care for yourself, notice your surroundings, and be present.

Dr. Lorna Jansen


-Dr. Lorna Jansen specializes in treating children, adolescents, and families. She helps clients manage stress, deal with relationship issues, and also offers academic coaching.

Parent Group Starting Soon

Questions most frequently raised by parents…
• How much responsibility should I expect from my child/young adult?
• What consequences are appropriate for his/her age?
• What rules should I set up and how should I enforce them?
• How do I encourage good sleep and homework habits?
• If my child/young adult has a special need, do I adjust my expectations and how do I explain this to my other children?
• “Hot Topics” – social media, drugs and alcohol, sexual behavior
If you are interested, sign up for a 6 week group of like-minded, concerned parents to address these issues. Hosted by Jean Ruttenberg, parenting and child specialist with expertise working with families and children with special needs.
For more information or to sign up, call our office at 215-491-1119