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Helping kids come to terms with shared custody

If you and your ex are going to be sharing physical custody of the kids, it's important to prepare them in advance for this. Below are some tips to help it go smoothly.

-- Present a united front with your child's other parent. It's best to tell the kids together, reminding them that you both will remain a viable presence in the family. If it's just not possible to broach the subject together, both parents should talk to the kids about it separately.

-- Reassure them of what will remain the same. Stress that Mom and Dad will love them as much as ever. Remind them that they will still be going to their same school — if that is true — and that all their friends will still be there. Reassure them that they can continue playing on the team.

-- Explain what will change. Kids don't like uncertainty. They need information to prepare themselves for what is happening. Don't bog them down with unnecessary details. Keep explanations age-appropriate. Use visual aids with younger kids, like color-coding "Daddy days" and "Mommy days."

Despite all of your best efforts, your kids may get overwhelmed and experience problems adjusting to the new normal of shared parenting. Don't despair. Be patient with them and share with them that it's a difficult transition for everybody to make. Let them know that they can come to you to talk out their problems.

If you suspect deeper adjustment problems are going on, ask your family law attorney to recommend a children's or family therapist who can provide some short-term counseling to get them over the hump.

Source: Parents, "Explaining Shared Custody to Kids," Kate Bayless, accessed Feb. 10, 2017

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