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Care and attention better than gifts for kids following divorce

Sometimes, parents feel guilty toward their children following a divorce, which may have given rise to some negative emotions. Often the temptation for parents, whether they have child custody or visitation rights, is to reach for a quick and easy fix by buying children presents, perhaps lavish ones. The truth is that children will benefit more from increased care and attention from a parent than from a gift of the latest electronic gizmo or expensive clothes. Additionally, children often know what is going on, and may think you are trying to buy their affection and approval with bribes.

What children really need is enhanced stability and security. That means making sure that any missing furniture in the household caused by the couple splitting apart is replaced, or the room rearranged to account for it, rather than the children seeing a big gaping hole in the room that reminds them of one parent's absence. Each parent's living space should have adequate accommodations for the children, even if they are only occasional overnight visitors rather than living there.

Each divorced parent should encourage the other to become or remain a good parent. It is extremely destructive to do things to undermine this or to try to get children to "take sides" following a divorce.

Children should not be used as the confidants of their parents. They are not adults and should not be burdened with adult worries or concerns. A divorced parent should have other adult friends for support and to discuss problems with. Children need to feel that they can rely on their parents for support and encouragement, not the other way around.

A parent going through a divorce should also consider holding off on re-entering the world of dating until after the divorce is final. At a minimum, children should not be involved in their father or mother's dating relationships at this early point, as they may find it confusing or disturbing.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Attention, Guilt-Ridden Parents!" Christina Pesoli, Aug. 31, 2012

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