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Five principles for putting children first in divorce

child-custody-dispute_1.jpgAll month we have been discussing on this blog the benefits of keeping children at the forefront in divorce. Of course, amid the turbulence, emotion and stress of divorce, this is easier said than done.

Putting kids first can be hard. Your soon-to-be ex may be making life unnecessarily difficult. You likely have entirely reasonable worries and fears about what will happen regarding your living situation and finances. However, with help and the right mindset, you can get you and your kids through divorce emotionally intact -- even if the other party to the divorce is not living up to their end of the bargain.

The "Bill of Rights" for kids in divorce

One strategy is to give your children a "Bill of Rights" in your divorce. This advice comes from Robert Emery, a professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of the book " Children and Divorce: Dealing with the emotions so You and Your Children can Thrive".

Setting up unbreakable principles ensures that no matter what happens, you are doing your best to keep your kids healthy during divorce. It is particularly useful if you can get the other party to your divorce to agree to these principles.

The rights recommended by Dr. Emery include:

  1. The right to unconditional love and support
  2. The right to be free from their parents' anger toward each other
  3. The right not to have to choose sides
  4. The right to know about significant life changes
  5. The right to express feelings

Getting help

The good news is that you don't have to bear the entire burden of divorce alone. Friends and family can certainly help you manage your emotions -- from letting you vent to giving encouragement. Just remember that this should be done privately. Do not vent in front of your children or on social media.

Therapy for you, your kids or the whole family is worth considering. Getting professional guidance during one of the most difficult times in your life never hurts.

Your lawyer can also help. Work with your attorney on ways to put your children first, including the possibility of resolving issues through mediation or arbitration. Your lawyer will help you navigate the legal process so it best suits your goal of prioritizing the well-being of your children.

Doing your best

No one is perfect. You may slip up. And your children may be emotional or angry even if you were to somehow behave perfectly. Still, numerous studies have shown that children with divorced parents can be healthy, active and happy. Following the principles above is a good first step.

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