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Helping Divorcing Parents Make Good Choices for their Children

By Patricia J. Seaver, MSW, DCSW

Marriages may end but parenting does not. Children who experience the end of love between their parents require extra assurance that their parents' love for them is eternal. Parents should be guided by these facts and give their children primary consideration both in parental behavior and as they negotiate legal matters.

A child's need for and right to the best parenting his/her parents can offer continues throughout life. This is acutely important when a marriage dissolves. Children learn many lessons about life and relationships during the divorce process and from its aftermath. Mothers and fathers are wise to remain aware of the emotional and psychological legacy they are creating for their offspring.

Reaching an agreement about legal and physical custody, child and other financial support is a daunting task for both parents. Often there is disagreement which leads to acrimony and drawn out adversarial positions. In the heat of these intense emotions, children's feelings may be overlooked. It takes a great deal of insight, selflessness and self control for parents to protect their children from being drawn into the crossfire.

Providing a loving, stable and age-appropriate environment involves more than logistics. Children of various ages have different requirements for emotional, social and physical comfort and security. Issues such as communication, visitation, physical custody, dating parents, school, involvement with extended family and community resources, affect each child according to such factors as age and gender.

Most parents work hard to remain civil, cooperative and tolerant. Many children survive divorce successfully and adjust well to the changes in their lives. However, even with the best intent, stress and discord may impede the agreement process. Children rely on their parents to protect their best interests and to provide the best chance for a positive outcome. When an impasse occurs it may be necessary to seek professional help.