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Here are some ways that you can make a difference in the lives of children whose parents are divorcing:

  1. Help parents learn to manage conflict. Most people who experience divorce struggle with many difficult emotions and often need the help of professionals like you to work through those. As you do so, you can help parents and ultimately help them make a big difference for their children by coaching them on ways to manage conflict.
  2. Help parents focus on parenting as their top priority. Even in the midst of their own painful emotions, most parents want what’s best for their children. Many feel a great deal of guilt over the impact their divorce may have on them. You can serve as a wonderful resource on effective parenting in which both parents provide abundant love and consistent limits for their children. The benefits of this kind of parenting for children are well established, but the process of taking positive steps to focus on children’s best interests is therapeutic for parents, as well.
  3. Help parents develop a professional parenting relationship, focused on their children’s best interests. One of the best ways to help parents manage conflict is to reframe their relationship. They are no longer romantic partners, but both will always be parents of the children they share. You can help them to establish a businesslike parenting relationship with a structured framework for making decisions and patterns of behavior that will provide lasting benefits for their children.
  4. Help children express their feelings. Recent neurological research has demonstrated the benefits of “labeling” emotions. Giving words to feelings helps to calm the amygdala and ignite the prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in rational thought. Young children often are unable to understand their feelings, but helping them to find words for them is beneficial. Older children and adolescents are much better able to manage their emotions if they can untangle their feelings and understand the differences—and the relationships—between fear, hurt, anger, worry, and other strong emotions they are likely feeling.
  5. Help children develop an accurate understanding of their parents’ divorce. Children need to understand that they did not cause, and cannot solve, the problems between their parents. They do not need—and for the most part, should not hear—the details of their parents’ difficulties. But many children and teens develop serious emotional difficulties because they somehow believe they are to blame. Addressing those feelings openly can help to make a great deal of difference for children.
  6. Help children develop coping skills. Coping skills are important factors in children’s ability to become resilient and bounce back from adversity and major changes in their lives. You can play an important role by teaching and then helping children practice skills such as empathy, problem solving, seeking help when needed, hope and optimism, and others.
  7. Employ evidence-based preventive intervention models. Programs such as the Children of Divorce Intervention Program, developed by Dr. Pedro-Carroll, have been proven to provide significant and lasting benefits for children. You may consider using this or other research-based models for group work with children.

NAPPA Gold Award, 2010, National Parenting Publications Awards

2010 Mom's Choice Awards® Gold Recipient

Putting Children First:
Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce




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2010 JoAnne Pedro-Carroll