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Being civil after divorce has benefits, especially for children

Communicating and cooperating with an ex-spouse may be the last thing a parent feels like doing after an emotionally draining divorce, but counselors encourage civility. Family law attorneys say divorced parents in Texas and elsewhere must keep the best interests of a child in mind.

Parents with child custody, support or visitation issues often forget that kids are bystanders. Watching the people they love separate, divorce and continue to argue increases a child's anxiety levels.

Withdrawal is one mistake parents frequently make after divorce. Pulling away from reminders of a broken marriage are self-preservation mechanisms. Children struggle to understand when a dad relocates out of state or a mom is too stressed by post-divorce life to take time to listen.

Children of divorce need parents who are reassuring and available. When kids see parents torn apart physically and emotionally, they often believe parents' feelings have changed toward them.

Negative feelings toward a former spouse are not unusual, but expressing the negativity in front of children confuses them. Kids love both parents, even if parents no longer care for one another. Hearing one parent bad-mouth another is upsetting to a child.

Parents who limit visitation time as a way to punish an ex-spouse do not consider how the tug-of-war affects children. Family counselors say children should not have to straddle a fence to love both parents and recommend that parents treat an ex-partner with courtesy.

Counselors say children's exposure to a divorced parent's dating habits should be kept at a minimum. Securing the emotional stability of children following divorce is more important.

Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune, "5 don'ts for divorcing parents," Linda Lewis Griffith, Jan. 13, 2012

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