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How to protect your children from conflict during divorce

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Navigating the ups and downs of a high-conflict divorce is difficult on its own. Things can become even more stressful when children are involved. You want what's best for them. That includes making sure disagreements don’t spill beyond you and your former spouse and impact the kids.

How can you try to ensure this doesn’t happen? Here are five strategies to keep in mind.

  1. How to answer the inevitable questions

Your children will have questions. It's unavoidable. How should you answer them? Try using words and phrases that a child can understand while emphasizing things like empathy. Also, don’t fall into the trap of having one long conversation. It can be more beneficial to share small pieces of information at a time, essentially turning it into an ongoing, open talk.

  1. Keep it between the adults

It's important to make sure kids don’t feel like they are stuck in the middle, forced to take one parent's side. You can help avoid this situation by keeping potentially volatile conversations away from the kids. Don’t argue with your ex around the children. If you feel things escalating, consider hitting pause and coming back to it when the young ones aren’t around.

  1. No name-calling, no laying blame

Children benefit from having a good relationship with both parents. Speaking poorly of a former spouse won’t help that. Do not blame the other parent for the separation. Don’t disparage them or call them names. And do not act displeased if a child says something good about a former spouse. Remain neutral. If the parents treat one another with respect, the children will sense that.

  1. Provide consistency

A divorce can be hard on kids. It's a lot of change they can’t quite understand. You can help reduce their anxiety by providing consistency. If you can stick to a routine – with school, with family, with friends – it can help the children feel more secure.

  1. Take care of yourself

If you’re stretched beyond your limits – feeling tense, angry and upset – your children can sense it. It may even begin to affect them. Taking care of yourself can help alleviate this. Learn a new hobby or skill to relieve some pressure, or consider speaking with a therapist or trusted confidante. The bottom line is, it's hard to effectively support your kids if you aren’t giving yourself the proper support as well.

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