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Helping children adjust to divorce

Divorce can be a tough time for children in Tennessee and around the country. They may be dealing with one parent's absence, new routines and their own anxiety and other emotions. However, their parents can help them adjust.

Parents should give their children simple explanations for why the marriage ended. They can simply say they no longer love one another. Children should be allowed to express a range of emotions about the situation. They should also have the opportunity to build a relationship with both parents and should not be forced to choose sides. This includes not using children to take messages back and forth or provide information on the other parent. Regardless of how one parent feels about the other, neither one should disparage the other.

Parents may have to accept the fact that the other parent will have a different set of rules. They can discuss the situation if the rules are very different or if one parent believes the difference is harmful. It can be important for parents to try to keep a functional co-parenting relationship so they can attend the child's events together. Children should know words like "custody" and "visitation" so they are able to talk about what they are going through.

Parents might want to make an effort to negotiate the custody and visitation agreement instead of getting into a custody battle. This may help them begin working through conflict. Negotiation may also offer parents and children more flexibility. However, even if parents have to go to court, it is possible to build an effective relationship. Parents may want to include certain provisions in the parenting plan that will reduce the likelihood of conflict between them. For example, some parents find that communicating with one another using email or text messages instead of on the phone or in person prevents arguments.

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