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Children and Divorce
Children are dependent upon the adults in their lives to teach them living skills and to help them gain confidence. When adults are engaged in the emotionally difficult process of separation and divorce, it can be easy to forget about the needs of the children.
Children need to hear and believe that the divorce is a matter between adults, and that the parents love the child no matter what. Children can feel when there is tension between adults and they need to be reassured that this has nothing to do with the children. Children are often listening and are sensitive to the words adults say. If adults have matters to discuss between themselves, this should be done privately and not in front of the children. This helps the children believe that the divorce or separation is truly a matter between the parents. It is important that children do not feel a loss even though the parents will be living separately in the future.
Children also need support for the adjustments required of them, both physical and emotional, when their living situations change. They need a safe place to express their feelings, and they need to be loved, understood, and paid attention to by the grown-ups in their lives. When this is missing for children, they sometimes show their distress in self destructive or socially challenging ways. They may have difficulty believing that the world is an emotionally safe place and may have trouble forming healthy relationships later on.
Parents also need support. As adults, we also need to feel that we matter. If couples lose the connection to hear this from the other, they can become frustrated, lonely, sad, and angry until they re-adjust and rebuild. It is a difficult and sometimes consuming process to divide assets and debts and establish a parenting schedule while adjusting emotionally. It can be a challenge under those circumstances to remember how vulnerable and dependent the children are.
Seeking counseling or a support group is not a sign of inadequacy or weakness. It is a healthy use of resources to manage a situation. With good support, both adults and children can continue to feel important and loved, and all family members involved in a divorce can more smoothly move on to a successfully reconfigured life.
In deciding child custody, the court considers the best interests of the children, the wishes and concerns of the parents, the child's wishes and concerns, the child's relationship with their parents, siblings, and extended family, the child's adjustment and development at home, school, and in the community, the mental and physical health of the parents, child, and siblings, the parental history of paying child support, the parental history of abuse or neglect of any child, the denial of other parent's rights to visitation, and any parental relocation plans.
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