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Kids and custody — what to say, and when

One of the hardest things parents have to do during a divorce is explain it to their kids. While most details should be kept from the children, matters of custody are likely to give them much anxiety unless they are fully informed of what's going on. Below are some tips for explaining the intricacies of shared custody to the children.

-- Make sure that you and your ex present a united front. It's best to tell them together, but that may not be possible. Stress that both parents will remain active and involved in the kids' lives.

-- Keep your tone positive. Acknowledge that while some changes will occur, nothing will alter mom's and dad's love for their children. Reinforce to them all the constants that will remain the same — their school, their room, activities and friends, etc.

-- Adequately prepare them for the inevitable changes, but keep it age-appropriate. Very young children are unable to conceptualize time, e.g., "every other week," "twice a month," etc. Use visual aids like calendars to help them comprehend how long it will be until they see their other parent again.

-- Note that divorce can sometimes be positive. A quick, clean break can restore peace to a ruptured household, and kids will welcome the cessation of hostilities and bickering.

If your child is experiencing a great deal of difficulty adjusting to the "new normal," consider asking your family law attorney for a referral to a counselor who works specifically with kids in that age group who are struggling to cope with divorce.

Source: Parents, "Explaining Shared Custody to Kids," Kate Bayless, accessed Oct. 07, 2016

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