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Don’t Divorce The Children

Does divorce traumatize children? The answer depends on two factors: the child's resiliency and the environment created by divorce. People are unique in their personal makeup. Some experience events like they're made of Teflon - it just slides off. Others experience events as severe trauma - they are enduringly influenced. While parents can do no more for the former, once they have left their DNA, they have a great deal of influence over the latter.

How can parents help to minimize the risk of trauma to children during and after divorce?

Parent to child
  • Provide space for children to express their fears, sadness and sense of loss.
  • Make clear that the divorce was not their fault.
  • Reassure them that they will be safe.
  • Create a stable routine and appropriate discipline.
  • Give them ample advance notice of changes whenever possible.
  • Avoid making your child a source for your emotional support.

Between parents
  • Support your child's relationship with their other parent and avoid negative comments about them.
  • Keep the specifics of the divorce between yourselves - because it is.
  • Avoid using children to communicate between parents - or report on them.
  • Avoid conflict and argument in the presence of the children.
  • When possible, speak to your children together to reassure them they are loved by you both.
  • Find ways to communicate with each other that eliminate (or reduce) hostility.

Parent to self
  • Maintain and/or build a support system from extended family and friends.
  • Consider individual or group organized or professional support.
  • Strive for balance in your life despite the stresses (eat well, exercise, and nourish your spirit).
  • Set goals and prioritize issues you need to address.
  • Inform yourself of the challenges faced in divorce and co-parenting.
  • Be forgiving and accepting of yourself - there's probably enough guilt in the system already.

Some of the indicators that children are experiencing the divorce in a traumatic way are:
  • Increased moodiness.
  • Negative self-comments (i.e., "No one likes me." "I hate myself." "I'm dumb").
  • Withdrawal or losing interest in things they used to like.
  • Sleep or eating problems.
  • Drug or alcohol use.
  • Uncharacteristic anger outbursts or fighting.
  • Loss of concentration.

When parents divorce, they don't divorce the children.


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In a summary dissolution, a hearing with the judge is typically not needed. A marriage of five years or less may be ended by summary dissolution, which is a simplified procedure to terminate a marriage in the state of California. With a summary dissolution, a joint petition is filed when 1) either spouse meets the standard residency requirement, 2) the marriage is irretrievably broken down due to irreconcilable differences, 3) the marriage is childless, 4) the wife is not pregnant, 5) neither spouse owns real estate, 6) there are no unpaid debts greater than $4,000, 7) the total value of community property is less than $25,000, 8) neither spouse has separate property (excluding cars and loans) of greater than $25,000, 9) the spouses have reached an agreement regarding the division and distributions of assets and liabilities, 10) both waive their rights to maintenance and appeal; 11) both have read a brochure about summary dissolution and 12) both desire to end the marriage.
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