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Explaining child custody and divorce to the children

Research shows that divorcing couples in New Orleans and the rest of the country often fail to adequately explain to their children what's going on during the split. When that happens, kids tend to feel more anxious and upset, which can affect their long-term development and relationships with their parents. Although couples don't have to give the exact reasons for the divorce, they do need to explain what the divorce will mean to the family and children.

Experts say that couples should candidly share information about potential child custody plans as soon as they are drafted. By explaining the specifics of where the child will live and how the parents will continue to care for him or her, a child will feel more at ease. Also, parents should be careful to reassure their children throughout the process, letting them know that they are important to both parents. Parents should also encourage a child to ask questions about the divorce.

Talking together as a family about the divorce is seen as the best approach. That means that both parents need to sit down with the children to explain what's going on with the divorce. Respect during the process is paramount, as children need to see that their parents will both continue to care for them after the divorce.

Providing the right message during these discussions will smooth the process. Refrain from placing blame or making it seem as though the divorce is the child's fault. Allow the child to grieve the change in the family structure.

Finally, by helping children understand specifics of their new reality, parents can ease the process of splitting up for the whole family. Focusing on children's comfort and confidence during this time will allow them to adjust to a new routine, despite it being split between two homes.

Source: The Huffington Post, "How To Tell Your Kids You're Divorcing," Deborah Moskovitch, March 23, 2012

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