a couple of school
friends who live in that same area. Both Mom and Dad
recognize that this is a difficult time for all
involved and are doing their best to make as few
changes as possible at first. It's hard sometimes,
yet they both agree to try.
Jenny's parents separated
eight months ago. Her mother immediately moved out of state,
leaving her father to sell the house and move into an apartment.
Jenny had to go live with mom. She now attends a different
school, in an area hundreds of miles from her old neighborhood.
She seldom sees her father, although she calls him once a week.
At those times her mother often has messages Jenny is to give
her father, messages that put Jenny in the middle of her parents
problems. Dad ends up being angry and Jenny feels upset. Jenny
has tremendous changes to make. She has had to change schools,
friends, leave her father, the list goes on and on. Imagine
being these kids. While all will have their own personal issues
with the changes in their lives, who will have the most trouble?
Which kids will come through it the least scarred?
The general rule of thumb is "the fewer changes the first
year the better." If possible, it will benefit the children to
remain in the same house or at least the same neighborhood and
go to the same school. Trying to maintain as many of the same
rules and rituals that existed before the breakup can also help
to minimize the degree of trauma for children.
Parents in crisis can often be blinded by their own emotional
needs. However, no matter how overwhelmed parents are by their
own crisis, they are still parents. When adults keep in mind
divorce is change for the kid too, the difficulties associated
with any change can be reduced and the job of parenting becomes
Michael Tonjum, Ph.D., is a psychologist in Santa Rosa with CIL
Counseling Services and is on the Kid's Turn Advisory Board.
Checklist: 10 TO MAKE CHANGE EASIER
(Adapted from Mom's House, Dad's House by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.)
- Reassure your children that you love them. You will always
be their parent and do what's best for them.
- Divorce is grown-up business. Never imply the children had
anything to do with the decision to end the marriage.
- Tell the children they now have two homes. Express to them
they live with Mom or Dad. Be sensitive to not use the word
- Reassure your children that change is emotional. Everyone has
feelings that can be expressed. Change is not always easy, but
things will turn out well.
- Be honest with your children. Provide concrete information
that is simple, brief and age appropriate. Do not suggest
reconciliation, unless its a strong possibility.
- Never threaten your children with abandonment, not even in
hopes that it will make obey you.
- Check your self to make sure you are not leaning on your
children for their support. Children do not have the emotional
resources to "hold" you. Whose holding who?
- Demonstrate your love with comfortable contact. Hold them on
your lap, touch them, give them spontaneous happy hugs, make
loving eye contact.
- Enjoy your children. Have family fun time. Laughter is a
- Trust yourself and your instincts. Trust your children, have
confidence in their ability to change and learn. You are the
best judge of what's best for you and your kids.