Child-focused divorces have captured the attention of the media and are becoming a model for many divorcing parents living in Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania cities. Parents facing uncontested divorces are starting to look to see how they can put the interests of children first instead of using them as a bargaining tool. Often these same parents were children of divorced households and do not want to subject their own children to possible trauma and hurt they faced as children of divorcing parents.
There have been studies demonstrating that experiencing parental conflict during divorce is harmful to a child's development. An uncontested divorce can be a confusing time in a child's life. Children may blame themselves, sometimes thinking that if they would have behaved better or done better in school, then their parents would not be divorcing. Other issues that children face is limited quality time with one or both parents and changes in home or in school location. Uncontested divorce can be a time that creates deep feelings of insecurity in a child's life.
Parents creating a child-focused divorce seek to avoid long term social and emotional damage to their children. Instead of taking the attitude that the kids will "get over it", these parents look to create a healthier environment for their children during and after their divorce. This includes not just figuring out an agreeable custody schedule, but also takes into consideration a child's emotional well being.
Some tips to keep in mind during a child-focused uncontested divorce are:
- Reassure the child that she is loved – verbally and with lots of hugs and kisses;
- Intently listen to your child's needs BEFORE making a decision (i.e., activities, school);
- Hire a divorce coach at the beginning of your divorce;
- Create structure and routine. Calendars (in both homes) are a great way to help kids remember and understand their routines;
- Select a child therapist that you trust; and
- Create a solid parenting plan in your marital settlement agreement.
There are several children's books about divorce on the market. A quick search online will give you some options; also you may want to ask your local reference librarian. Films are another area that may cover divorce from a child's perspective, such as one recently released by HBO. Children and Divorce is a film created by Professor Childs. The documentary covers the stories of eight children talking about divorce in their own words. Peer reassurance can have a stronger impact than a parent saying everything will be fine.
Don't expect instant or monumental changes in your child's acceptance of your divorce or his different behavior. Keep in mind that an uncontested divorce is a major life change and it will take some time for you and your child to transition into a restructured family. Deciding on a child-focused divorce can help your child's emotional and mental health and the lasting impact normally follows him/her into adulthood.