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We've gathered knowledgeable, dedicated divorce experts from a variety of fields to lend their advice and perspectives. Our experts include lawyers, healthcare professionals, certified professionals, and everyday women with insight into the topics that will help you stay empowered.

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The negative stereotypes. The gloomy predictions. The frightening news reports. If you are a parent whose marriage has ended in — or is headed for — divorce, you can't help but feel anxious about the well-being of your children.

Naturally you want the best for them. You may be asking yourself, "What will this do to him?" Now more than ever you want to give your child everything he needs to feel your love, support and guidance. Yet suddenly everything about your family seems to have grown more difficult and complicated. It all begins with communication.

This exclusive four-part series on firstwivesworld will make talking to your children about the divorce easier than you could ever imagine. Each week, age-appropriate excerpts from my book Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way will give you the language to use, whether your child is a toddler or teen.

The approach is based on a program — now mandated in family courts nationwide — that I created to help children of divorce. I chose the name Sandcastles, because I visualize the image of a child molding a new "home" of sand to replace the old one that turbulent waters swept away. This is a mission every child who has experienced divorce must complete in order to heal and flourish emotionally. 

Don't be discouraged. You certainly will face challenges, but you also have a huge opportunity to guide your child through your divorce in a way that will help them to feel loved and supported.

First, you must understand these truths:

Divorce doesn't go away. Using the words "divorce" and "final" in the same sentence can be deceiving. The dissolution of your marriage is not a single, isolated event. It is a long journey full of gains and losses. There will be breakthroughs and setbacks — periods of calm and crisis. Long after the papers are signed, divorce will play a major role in your family's life. It will figure prominently in your child's life now when he is just a youngster as well as later when he decides which of his parents should take him to visit college campuses. It will affect your daughter's wedding plans. And it will likely inform each of your children's own love relationships — for better or worse.

Divorce studies can't predict how your child will fare. We've all read the dire reports of how badly children suffer when parents end their marriage. It's important to note, however, that the full impact of divorce on children and families is a relatively new field of study. All studies have limitations and experts are human beings with their own biases and hypothesis to prove. For example, some of the most popular and oft-quoted studies on children of divorce sample fewer than 100 families. And most of the research examines children who are not involved in a support group or receiving psychotherapy. Keep in mind that a study, no matter how scientific, can only tell you what's happened to someone else's child. It cannot forecast how your divorce will affect your child.

It's not the divorce, but how you handle the divorce. Ultimately, you — not the statisticians and pollsters — will determine how your children experience divorce. How parents choose to handle issues and challenges in their split, not the split itself, is the biggest indicator of how children will fare today and into the future. Does that sound daunting? It can be, but think of it as a tremendous opportunity — because it is. No one knows better than you what is best for your child. No matter how many friends, psychologists, teachers and family members weigh in with advice and opinions, follow your heart. You and your child share an extraordinarily strong bond. You don't have to be an expert in child development to know that your love as a parent gives you the best chance of offering your child the security, guidance, structure and support he needs.

Click the following to jump to the age-appropriate article for you in this series:

How to Explain Divorce to Your Preschooler

How to Explain Divorce to Your Six - Eight-year-old

How to Explain Divorce to Your Nine - Twelve-year-old

How to Explain Divorce to Your Teen

 

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  • Comment Link Guest Monday, 13 December 2010 17:17 posted by Guest

    When the Alternative to Divorce is So Much More Damaging : As a single mother, I have read with deep concern the many studies regarding the impact of divorce on children. I've spent countless hours worried about how I will ensure that my beautiful son does not become one of the "statistics," accepting that I am obliged to raise him in a situation that is certainly less than ideal based upon my expectations for him, and for myself.

    Parents who love their children naturally want the best for them, and divorce inevitably marks a change in circumstances that makes "the best" seem beyond reach. So, in their struggle to create as close to the best as possible, they read all the gloomy studies out there that tell them how divorce negatively impacts children, hoping to do something to make sure their children will be different, won't become another "statistic."

    I've spent so much time and energy reading these studies, wasted so much time worrying about my son's future in light of unanticipated life challenges. And I've had to keep from crying as I answer my son's many questions about why he doesn't have a father in his life. But, in answering him at various stages of his curiosity over the years since I left his father, I've realized for myself that divorce, ending an unhealthy relationship, can be a really good thing for a child. Granted, it may not be the ideal we all hope for when we bring a child into the world, but NOT getting a divorce could be so much more damaging to the future of a child than taking a step that admittedly carries with it heavy implications for a child's development.

    Over the course of years now, I have thought much of my son's future, and, as time has passed and I've been amazed by how well he is doing, I've realized that divorce is only one of a countless number of life events that could impact the course of a child's life, and that it may even offer the opportunity for a great many benefits that would not exist had a divorce not taken place.

    I know my son would have suffered a great deal had I not left his father and the unhealthy environment that was our home. My son and I are amazingly close now, far moreso than I think we would have been had I not raised him as a single mother. And there are so many other great aspects to his character that might not have been brought out had he grown up under different circumstances. Sure, I still sometimes wish I had the help and support of a loving father to bolster my son's confidence and self-esteem, a devoted father there to serve as a role model for him as he develops into a young man. But I am so proud of the person he is and divorce is just one of many of life's challenges that I have now come to believe has helped to shape my son's beautiful spirit and virtuous character.

    After years of wishing I could take away the impact of divorce in his life, I've come to see things are the way they are meant to be, and that my son is ok. He may well be another statistic, but that's only because there are SO many other children out there who have fared well following divorce, maybe even better than they might have otherwise.