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Putting Children First: Guidelines for Divorcing Parents Essay

Raising children presents challenges. When parents live in separate homes, the challenges are greater because relationships become more complicated. Sometimes parents disagree about how much time children should spend with each parent. Unless special circumstances exist, preserving a healthy and ongoing relationship between children and both parents after divorce or separation is of greatest importance. Positive involvement with both parents furthers the child’s emotional and social development, academic achievement, and overall adjustment. The following guidelines are helpful to remember when divorced or separated parents interact with children.

Children benefit when parents:
• Keep predictable schedules
• Help the child have regular contact with the other parent by phone, letter, audio and video, Skype, e‐mail, and other forms of communication
• Are on time and have the child ready when it’s time for the child to go with the other parent
• Exchange the child without arguing

• Support the child’s relationship with the other parent
• Let the child carry “important” items such as favorite clothes, toys, and security blankets with them between the parents’ homes
• Follow similar routines for mealtime, bedtime, and homework time in each home
• Handle rules and discipline in similar ways

• Support contact with grandparents, stepparents, and other extended family so the child doesn’t lose these relationships
• Are flexible so the child can take part in special family celebrations and events
• Give as much advance notice as possible to the other parent about special occasions or necessary changes to the schedule
• Provide the other parent with travel dates, destinations, and places where the child and the parent can be reached when on vacation
• Establish workable and respectful communication with the other parent
• Plan their vacations around the child’s regularly scheduled activities.

Children are harmed when parents:
• Make their child choose between them
• Question their child about the other parent’s activities or relationships
• Make promises they don’t keep
• Drop in and out of the child’s life
• Are inconsistent in using their parenting time
• Argue with or put down the other parent in front of the child or where the child can overhear
• Discuss their personal problems with the child or where the child can overhear
• Use the child as a messenger, spy, or mediator

• Stop or interfere with parenting time because child support hasn’t been paid
• Don’t show respect for each other


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