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How parents can minimize their kids' stress amid divorce

No matter how hard divorcing parents work to minimize the impact of their break-up on their children, those kids are likely to experience some level of stress. It's important for parents and other adults in children's lives (like coaches and teachers) to be on the lookout for signs of stress.

These can include regressing to behaviors they had outgrown, emotional outbursts and exhibiting new fears and anxieties. Signs of stress can also be more physical in nature -- including stomach problems, headaches, bedwetting and changes in eating and sleeping habits.

It's essential for co-parents who are seeing these behaviors in one or more of their children to work together to try to minimize them. Now is not the time to blame your co-parent for your kids' problems. Some of the things that parents can work together to do include:

  • Keeping your kids' routines as predictable as possible
  • Letting your kids know if there will be changes to the custody or visitation schedule and reassuring them that such changes will be the exception and not the rule.
  • Don't encourage your kids to take on additional extracurricular activities in an effort to keep their minds off the divorce. An overpacked schedule can just increase their stress.
  • If you're the parent that spends less time with the kids, don't try to squeeze in a lot of activities to that limited time. Allow your kids quiet time to decompress, particularly in the early hours of their visit. Plan relaxing activities like watching a movie or playing with the dog.

Encourage your kids to talk about what they're feeling. Kids -- especially younger ones -- may have a difficult time finding the words to do that. Older kids may not want to bother their parents with their problems. You may want to ask them questions to encourage them to talk.

If none of this seems to help, it may be wise to consider bringing in a child therapist. Many mental health professionals focus on helping children (and sometimes their parents) adjust to their new family dynamic during and after divorce. Your family law attorney can likely recommend some child psychologists in your area who have worked with their other clients.

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