Marjorie JamesA couple of weeks ago, before St. Patrick intervened, I talked about parents of special needs children who are going through the divorce process. I cited two articles that spoke about the procedures these parents should adhere to in order for the process to have as little negative impact as possible.

As I was reading my blog over again, it dawned on me that these guidelines are very applicable to “typical” children in the same situation. Let me go over the guidelines, and I think you will see it too.

First, the writers emphasized the need for the parents to not blame the children for the divorce. Most of the time, this is probably not an issue with “typical” parents, but the children may feel that if they had “been better” Dad wouldn’t be leaving and Mom wouldn’t be so angry or sad. The adults in the room need to make sure that the children know that they are not the reason for the break-up.

Second, all children are sensitive to the great changes during a divorce. Both parents need to make sure that the children are informed all along the way. Children, especially young ones, just don’t understand all that is happening or why, unless the parents communicate. Obviously, not all information needs to be shared, but parents need to be prepared to communicate at the child’s level of understanding and stand ready to answer any questions honestly.

I once had one of my middle school students start crying. (Obviously, his mind wasn’t on what we were doing in class!) He was a “cool, macho” kind of guy, and it threw those around him into a bit of a tizzy. I quickly took him out into the hall so he could settle down and talk it out a bit. His comment was that he had just found out that his parents were separating, and “I’m not sure I can handle it.”

His parents had been planning the separation for about a month but hadn’t told him anything. He found out by coming home to the sight of his dad loading clothes into his car. Not cool! The third point Ms. Hartwell-Walker made was that transitions should be as gradual as possible. Obviously, these parents didn’t think too much about their child’s need for information and the time to absorb it all. To give them some credit, maybe they were just trying to “protect” him, but it backfired.

Dating will probably come into the picture at some point. I have a single neighbor who told me that she had made the decision not to date until her son was “on his way”, probably late high school age. When he was a junior, she met a “wonderful man” and started dating him. Once in awhile, her son went on the dates with them. At the wedding, her son was a vital part of the ceremony. He was thrilled because he had grown to love this man as a father. It was truly a “we” project.

As I said last week, I believe Collaborative teams should be a vital part of the divorce process when children are involved. (Actually, even if there are no children.) The team members are attuned to the needs of all participants and can provide support and wise counsel all along the way.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.