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Protecting the kids during divorce battles in Washington

Any married person is sure to struggle with wading through the uncertainties and emotional strife during divorce. But if that person is a parent, there are other concerns that can supersede their personal needs. Self-care and your own mental health are important considerations, but a child's mental development can be put at risk by a rigorous, stressful divorce, and parents are largely the ones who control of that.

Washington parents need to understand that how they handle their children in the aftermath of the decision to divorce could impact their divorce proceedings and child custody hearings. Ultimately, it could have an effect on how a parent is allocated parenting time, custody and visitation rights to a child.

But clearly assessing the mental state of a child is sometimes hard to do. With that in mind, there are some considerations to keep in mind when trying to decide if the kids are doing okay.

First, if you have multiple kids, watch and see how their interactions change over time. If they have become more co-dependent on one another -- particularly if one performs the role of a parent for some of the kids -- it could indicate that your children don't feel they can rely on one or both of their parents.

Parents should also watch to see if their children take sides in the divorce. If that does happen, it needs to be addressed, and the children need to be encouraged not to worry about the outcome. Remind them that divorce is an adult problem and that they don't have to root for one side.

Finally, the social interactions and academic performances of your children should stay about the same. If they change, for better or worse, this likely means the children are compensating in some way to cope with the divorce or possibly influence its outcome. Encourage your children to continue with life as normal -- this will help them weather the storm without any significant developmental setbacks.

Source: Huffington Post, "Are the Kids Alright?" Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., June 7, 2012

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