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Effective Parenting Through Divorce & Beyond
by Kathy Vavro, MEd., LSW, PC-S
Research shows that parent behaviors have the greatest impact on their children through the divorce process. It is not the EVENT of divorce itself that has the greatest impact on a child; it’s the ACTIONS parents take during and after divorce that make the difference between a child who is unscathed and one who may carry scars for life. Parent behaviors that have the greatest negative impact on children include: 1) open conflict between the parents, 2) negative talk regarding the other parent, 3) letting the child get caught in the middle between both parents.

There are no perfect parents, but there can be preventative actions that parents can take to safeguard the emotional well-being of their children. There are five steps that can minimize damage and support children’s emotional well-being through divorce:

1) Keep your child out of the middle

Children caught in the middle often experience increased stress, confusion, resentment, and loss of self-esteem. Consider the following to prevent these consequences for your children:

 don’t engage in open conflict with your child’s other parent;

 don’t talk negatively about the other parent;

 don’t allow family members to put your child in the middle;

 don’t use your child as a messenger between parents;

 don’t make your child choose loyalty to only one parent;

 don’t burden your child with your needs;

 don’t interrogate your child about time spent with the other parent.

2) Allow your child to love both parents

While it may be challenging, it is critical for your children’s sake to separate your feelings about your former spouse from your child’s feelings about his/her other parent:

 honor your child’s need for both parents;

 find characteristics or skills the other parent possesses that are positive for your child;

 consider the benefits your child gains from having two parents;

 avoid making negative assumptions about the other parent;

 learn to think of your former spouse as a parent rather than a partner;

 show acceptance that your child has two homes;

 build predictability and consistency in both households wherever possible;

 do what you can to ease the transition process.

3) Work on your own recovery

Research shows that a child’s recovery from divorce mirrors his/her parent’s recovery. Consider the following:

 give yourself permission to grieve;

 consider forgiving as a way of letting go of the pain;

 recognize positive memories;

 work at detaching from your former partner;

 learn ways to manage your anger in a constructive manner.

4) Develop new communication skills

Co-parenting requires effective communication skills. Both parents are responsible for making it a priority to minimize conflict and remain child-focused:

 agree on a method of communication;

 decide on frequency of communication;

 stay with topics that are child-focused;

 learn new communication techniques, including ways to negotiate and problem-solve effectively

5) Create a new relationship as co-parents

The most important factor in your child’s adjustment will be how well you co-parent together with your former partner:

 realign your relationship as co-parents;

 minimize negative influences;

 use a business relationship model;

 clarify boundaries;

 be dedicated to the future.

The above steps are explored more fully in a 4 hour workshop entitled: Crossroads of Parenting and Divorce, developed by Susan Blyth Boyan, L.M.F.T. and Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., L.P.C.

This research-based program is currently scheduled for Saturday June 18, 2011 & October 1, 2011 at Lakeland Community College; It will be facilitated by Kathy Vavro, MEd, LSW, PC-S, who also offers an array of counseling and mediation services for relationship issues. She can be contacted for further information at:

Kathy Vavro, MEd., LSW, PC-S

Another Way: Mediation and Consultation Services

41 East Erie Street, Painesville, Ohio 44077

Phone: 440.554.0923



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