1. Parents need to treat each other with dignity and respect. The other spouse is the child’s parent. Children love their parents and it is harmful to them to hear a parent disparage and make negative comments about the parent he or she loves.
2. Allow the child to love both parents. When a parent is unable to allow a child to foster a relationship with the other parent, due to anger, jealously, upset or simply a change in the parenting roles, the child may feel like he or she needs to take sides or love one parent more than the other. A child may be reluctant to spend time with the other parent if he or she feels like it will hurt a parent. Barring drugs, alcohol or abuse cases, a child needs to know it ok to spend time with both parents.
3. A child benefits from consistency in both homes. Foster similar rules and discipline. Support each other in discipline. Do not encourage disobedience in a home. Encourage the child to respect the other parents rules. This allows a child to understand what to expect and what is expected of the child.
4. Stay involved with your children. Maintain contact so a child knows and feels loved by you. If you are not involved, a child may feel you don’t love him or her. A child has better self-esteem when he or she knows they are loved and supported by both parents.
5. Don’t make your child the messenger. Set a system of communication and follow it. Be responsive to the other parent. There are many communication systems available to parents, such as Family Wizard or Talking Parents. Use google calendars for scheduling.
6. Encourage your child to see both parent’s houses as their homes, not just a place to visit. Both parents needs to ensure their home is set up to accommodate a child and set up to welcome the child. Don’t make the child sleep in the spare bedroom which is set up as a storage unit. Allow the child to decorate their space so they feel it belongs to him or her.
7. Try to work together and problem solve. A child knows when there is conflict between parents. The child feels the conflict in both homes. This makes the child feel he or she has done something wrong.
8. Try to avoid showing the child your stress and anguish. Don’t vent to the child. A child cannot fix you and your emotions cause the child to suffer. Set aside your hurt and anger and focus on the needs of the child. This can be difficult when there are good reasons to feel hurt or anger, however, it is not healthy for your chid to be exposed to these emotions. Let them be the child.
9. Remember, a child is always listening and watching. Do not have conversations about the other parent or the divorce in front of the child. Many children learn a lot about the divorce while riding in the car with a parent who is talking about it with the child in the car or when the child should be sleeping but is in bed listening to phone conversations.
9. Don’t put your child in the middle. Remind yourself the divorce or break up issues are your issues, not the child’s.
10. Listen to the other parent and don’t over-react. Instead of making statements, which can be viewed as demands, make requests – Would you be willing to do …? Or try this?