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7 Parenting don’ts During a Divorce

1. Avoid these parenting mistakes during divorce

Divorce is a major transition for your family and the stress it creates affects everyone. Unfortunately, children are especially sensitive to the effects of this stress, even as infants who sense a parent’s stress early on. The good news is that if you can steer through the adjustment, doing all you can to help your children cope and showing them unconditional love and support along the way, most children adjust to the change. Things like living in two places that were difficult in the beginning slowly become the new normal, but to help your child reach this point, there are a few things you should avoid doing.

2. Say negative things about your partner

Since you and your partner are likely divorcing as a result of your differences, you may not always have the nicest things to say about him or her. That’s understandable, but remember that your words may negatively influence your child’s relationship with your ex-partner over time, which can be damaging for your child. Though it may be difficult to do, say as few negative things about your partner as possible in front of your children, and relegate venting your anger or frustration to adult conversations.

3. Forget to show your love

Sometimes divorce can be overwhelming emotionally, physically, and mentally. However, it is important that you continue to show and tell your children that you and your partner love them unconditionally. Your separation is a major change, and to help your child continue to feel secure, you need to regularly remind them that your love for them is not also changing.

4. Get off track

Changes can bring on a lot of uncertainty for children; when one parent isn’t around, they may wonder whether or not everyday things, like someone packing their lunch or reading bedtime stories with them, will continue to happen. During this time, they may derive comfort from those routines and need you to keep life as normal as possible. Stick to the normal routine as best you can when you are on your own with your kids.

5. Ignore your partner

Parenting together will likely be more difficult now that you and your partner are separated and possibly harbor negative feelings towards each other. However, it is still important to communicate when it comes to your child: ignoring your partner simply isn’t an option. You need to let each other know of any important changes that come up in any area, including schedule adjustments and changes in school or social activities, so that you can both support and care for your child as well as possible. Be sure to let other caregivers know of any changes, as well.

6. Forget to make them comfortable

When major changes like divorce take place, there is enough emotion for your child to work through without facing unnecessary environmental stresses. You may be busy settling into a new home, but remembering to allow your child to keep similar, comforting items, like pajamas, snacks, or toys, at both homes may help him or her feel more comfortable as they transition to living in two places. Sometimes those small elements of familiarity can make all the difference.

7. Stifle emotions

Your child cannot help but feel emotional about this major change in his or her life, and avoiding those emotions can only cause more problems. Help your child talk about the emotions they are experiencing, which may range from confused and scared to angry. If it is difficult for them to open up or articulate what they are feeling, you can allow them to express their emotions through artwork with clay or crayons or read books that help them find a voice for their feelings as a part of your routine. At all times, listen to them and support them as best you can.

8. Avoid counseling

Sometimes, though, your support and encouragement may not be all the help your child needs to get through this difficult time. If your child’s behavior is negatively changing in ways that you don’t know how to manage, get help from a counselor early on to keep it from causing big problems. Family or co-parent counseling may help your child identify the issue and find a positive way to work through it.


  • University of Missouri. Helping Infants and Toddlers Adjust to Divorce.
    American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Managing Conflict During Divorce.
    The Mayo Clinic. Children and divorce: helping kids through a breakup.
    American Academy of Pediatrics. Helping Children and Famillies Deal with Divorce and Separation.

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