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What is the one change parents can make to improve the outcome of their divorce with children?

Recently, we posed a question to our group of professionals on LinkedIn and the responses were too good not to share.

The question we asked the group was:

What is the one change parents can make to improve the outcome of their divorce with children? We all know there aren't any silver bullets, but what tidbit of knowledge do you think most closely represents one?

The responses were great and can be found below:

Dean Tong:
Make sure the best parent is both parents. Foster and nurture the children's relationship with the non-custodial parent. Do not vilify the other parent in front of the children. And always place the children's needs in front of your own.

Carl Michael Rossi: 
Begin to think and act in terms of "I am their parent". NOT "They are my children". To remember that they do not 'own' their children; their children own them! I try to encourage them to the concept that they do not have 'rights' with respect to their children...only responsibilities and obligations to them.

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT:
Remember to ask yourself some really important questions: Do I love my kids more than I dislike my ex? What will my kids say about how I handled post-divorce parenting when they're grown adults? This will keep you on target in putting their emotional and psychological needs first when making any parenting decisions following the divorce.

Framing the circumstances as opportunities is one of the most important keys to giving our children a way to move through the divorce experience with dignity, peace and happiness. It worked in my family as it did in yours!

Another great question to ask yourselves, which I got from Mike Mastracci, Esq., is: "Would I be making this same parenting decision if I were still married?" Too often our decisions are colored by how we feel about our ex, keeping us from providing the best parenting suggestions and advice for our children. If we stop and ask ourselves whether this is what I would do regardless of the divorce it keeps our responses cleaner and clearer.

Elizabeth S. Thayer Ph.D.:
It is all about the level of conflict and acceptance. Give the children permission to love both parents and go back and forth freely without conflict. The children should not always be living the legacy of their parents' divorce. 22 days ago

Sherry Adler, CDFA:
The best tidbit I've heard is that even a bad parent is better than no parent. I'm sure this isn't always the case, but generally true.

Gary Borger: 
Not discussing the divorce proceedings with the children, not showing the children any of the court papers, and not denigrating the other parent, but rather showing respect for the other parent, and taking a united position WITH the other parent so the children can't play one against the other.

Sandra Dye:
Divorce is filled with loss for everyone. There is often a sense of helplessness that accompanies the loss. I believe the message we want to give divorcing parents is one of empowerment. We can help focus them on positive empowerment through collaboration. Providing a checklist of what helps promote positive co-parenting and reviewing progress with the parents is very helpful.

When we communicate expectations about what "not to do" instead of what actions to do, we promote staying in the negative loop. Resolving and committing to train and practice being the best co-parents possible to children, focuses parents on positive actions. The sense of powerlessness is reduced when parents can check off the positive actions they are taking to being exceptional co-parents.

Dorothy Boswell
Make sure that the children's happiness is at the centre of the process. Don't use them as weapons or messengers. Remember that children grow up and when they are older they will question the way their parents behaved and might be angry at how their feelings were ignored.

Lisheyna Hurvitz, M,A. Ed.:
Ask yourself, if I died tomorrow, would my children have what is in their highest and best interest? If not, do what it would take. You never know what will happen in life. And, if you have difficulty putting aside your personal upset with your ex spouse, get some expert parenting coaching. It will be the best investment you ever make. Not only did I follow my own advice 20 plus years ago, but I am a parenting coach and I am so very proud of my two children that were 5 & 6 then. Now they are 26 & 28 and happy adjusted people who love both parents. They also became successful attorneys with great personal relationships themselves. Live and love like it is your last day here and it will transform your life! Happy Holidays!

Forgot to add, frame new events as opportunities not as tragedies. To this day, my son looks forward to 2 Thanksgivings! This year he only had one and he was disappointed! He is the 28 year old and he loves to eat and to celebrate. New traditions can be fun and INCLUSIVE for all. If parallel parenting works for some children, it is a great idea. Remember, there is no one "right" way to create good parenting for children. Just do what really works for your children and do it with an open heart. It is your love they desire...Each child wants the love of both parents.... didn’t you? Just keep loving and letting go of old ideas and old expectations. Create room for the new. It's fun & exciting.

Dawn Marcus Stept:
Each parent recognizing and honoring the importance of the other in their infants and children's lives post divorce and facilitating these relationships on behalf of their children. All of the above comments are so valuable. I think that the value and importance of a father's role in the psychosocial development of his children post separation needs to be recognized. Angry gate keeping behavior often pushes the parent with less power (most often but not always the father) further and further away from their critical involvement in their children's lives. That parent becomes fatigued from the legal battle, its financial drain, and accepts whatever he/she is given or simply gives up. Judith Wallerstein, PhD, Janet Johnson, PhD, Joan Kelly PhD and other highly respected researchers who have studied child development in children of divorce for years and have interviewed young adults whose fathers’ roles were minimized, most often wish that they had developed a closer relationship with their fathers and often longed for them when they were younger. Don't use your children as a means of control/punishment and violate one of the two most important relationships in their lives.

Elinor Robin, Ph.D.: I have two. (1) Often, in divorce, one or both parents acts out their feelings by regressing and adopting behaviors that resemble those of their youth. So, 40 year olds start to look and act like boy/girl crazy teenagers. A baby may not notice as much. But, for a pre-teen or teenager this situation is close to intolerable. So, remember to put on your grown-up persona around your children at all times. Avoid giving them TMI. And, (2) always refer to your Ex as your Co-parent instead of your Ex. Of course calling him/her Dad/Mom to your kids is the way to go - just like you did when you were married.

Allison Bell:
What protects children post-divorce is what protects children anywhere, in any family: keep the level of parental conflict low in their presence, and be warm, warm, warm in your relationship with your child. To be warm toward your children requires having other places to deal with strong, negative emotions. It allows a parent to shine, to glow in the presence of children, to see them as people in their own right, to always be curious about them, and to handle disappointments in their behavior with compassion. Warmth is what gets lost in the cold rage of divorce, but also in intact families in which parents war silently with one another. And, according to Joan Kelly PhD, in the recent research on risk and resilience in children post-divorce, Warmth is even more important than level of conflict as an outcome predictor.

Lisa A. Spencer:
Love 'em! That's all they want for their entire lifetime, unconditional, supportive love. Parents need to be able to get out of their own way, resolve their differences, and love their children fully, with all the exuberance and joy they can muster when their emotions get challenging with one another. Being the child of divorced parents and working with many children throughout my life whose parents have chosen to divorce, hands down this is the guiding umbrella thought...was I loved, did I "feel" loved, was I hugged, was I listened to, was I heard, did my voice count...am I loved?

Kerri Quintal: Both parents play a critical role in the growth and development of their children. Internal conflicts within the parents don't have to be projected onto the children... Help and support may make the process a little less difficult. Having communication between parents seem to be the keys to success for my past clients.... 

Nancy Kinney: I think the biggest factor involved in working out family law disputes is taking personal responsibility. I don't mean blaming yourself for everything that's gone wrong. I mean taking responsibility for your own actions and inaction; and taking responsibility for working out disputes that arise, regardless of what the other person does or says. Sometimes there's simply no reasoning with the other person, but if you're truly doing everything you can to work things out, then at least you're going to get through it a happier person. 

Sherri Donovan: Do not look at your children as an extension or the same as your divorcing spouse. Follow the Children's Bill of Rights on my website Sherridonovan.com under the section on children. 

Stala Charalambous: Be united in the childrens eyes in respect of any decisions affecting the children and never put one parent down in front of a child. A child places his/ her parents on a pedal stool. Do not shatter a childs dreams.

In respect of parenting, parents need to try put aside their differences and agree to raise children that value the input of both parents.' Parenting after Parting classes and workshops' are a great initiative and clients should be made aware that they exist . More details appear on the Resolution-Family First website www.resolution.org.uk

The children of today are the adults of tomorrow. A Divorce is not their fault. Do Not make them feel or carry the burden that it is. 

Martha New Milam: The most important thing parents can do is to stop fighting! the second most important thing is that parents need to avoid putting the children in the middle of the adult issues and decisions. 

Paula Bisacre: Seek out informational and educational resources. For example, The National Family Resiliency Center (a non-profit organization at www.divorceabc.com) provides a great on-line tool, Family Connex that helps parents address the psychological, intellectual, interpersonal and safety and security needs of each of their children.