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Advice for putting the kids first in divorce

Divorce and co-parenting can often be hard on children. If both mom and dad are always at each other's throats, a child can feel stuck in the middle and even criticized for loving both parents.

But, on a bright note, Dr. Christine Costello, who is a clinical psychologist, recently said she's seeing more and more divorced parents working together when going through a divorce, therefore, saving a lot of heartache for the couple's children.

A recent Baltimore Sun article looked at how parents can go through a divorce and child custody in a way that will help the children.

Emotions can run high when a couple is looking at child custody matters and discussing where the kids will live, Costello said. And often times when this happens the parents make the situation about his and her hurt feelings, and not what is in best interest of the child.

Costello's advice, for both parents to be on the same page as much as possible, is to write everything down from the child's point of view and what kinds of questions he or she may be looking for about why the parents are living separately.

Having the children also journal is a healthy activity to get emotions out. However, make sure the child knows this is his and her personal feelings and that no one else is going to be reading what he and she wrote, unless he or she wanted it to be read, Costello said.

Aside from making sure to be calm in front of the children when going through a divorce and splitting up personal belongings, it is also very important to have ground rules if custody is not split down the middle. Costello said often times the weekend parent becomes the fun, cool one who is more relaxed on homework and chores and more like a "Santa Claus," buying the children presents. For the weekday parent, this makes everything very unbalanced and harder to get back into the child's regular routine. To avoid this, parents need to make sure to communicate.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Successful co-parenting," Jennifer Weigel, 26 Oct 2010

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