Kids and Custody
Do you remember being a kid? At my age it’s a little blurry, but I can tell you that adults often misunderstand how kids behave and think. Children are often smarter and more creative than we give them credit for.
As a toddler I distinctly remember being able to understand that my Dad lost his job before my parents told me. Kids can often pick up the signs of divorce better than adults can. Being honest about it can work wonders for the whole family, but it’s important to follow some guidelines when dealing with such a sensitive subject.
Don’t get into the gory details about the custody dispute. Just tell them that it has begun, that you are ready to answer any questions they have. Always assure them that they can count on both parents unconditional love, however the divorce dispute turns out.
Do not involve your kids in the dispute, meaning don’t use them to spy on your spouse, to act as a messenger or otherwise. You have to get your information from another source, not your kids. If no other source is available, perhaps you are blowing up a non-issue.
Never let your child’s feelings stray from your mind. You want to lower the stress that the custody dispute causes them and be mindful of what they are telling you. Even with non-verbal cues, your kids can tell you a lot. They may get upset easily and express their anger to you directly. If they complain about your spouse, and your spouse reports the opposite, they could be indirectly letting you know that they are caught in a loyalty conflict.
Monitor their progress carefully. It’s possible that the separation will cause developmental regression. Mood swings and acting out may result in discipline problems at school or at home. Sometimes these changes can result after one spouse moves away, or after another significant separation event. You could also see a slow deterioration into this behavior as the custody battle wears on.
If you do notice negative changes in behavior, it’s important to talk to them openly (assuming they are able to) rather than point fingers. Get everyone on the same page, whether it be your spouse, your child, divorce lawyers, therapists, etc, to make sure you have a plan to facilitate your child’s positive growth.
If you decide that your child is not giving you all the information you need to adequately care for their well-being, hiring a professional, such as a therapist, for individual or family sessions can be a huge help. Counseling is not a dirty word. Health is the number one priority. That includes the health of your relationships. Family comes first.
In my experience, parents can be hesitant to involve even more people in their dispute, especially if they are hiring attorneys, accountants and other professionals. With all these bills to pay, money can be an issue. It’s vital to not forget your child and make sure they are getting the help they need. Even getting a neighbor or friend to talk it out can help in a big way. Having a confidential sounding board can help them let to go of pent-up emotions and enable them to cope.
As a divorce attorney and family law mediator in Los Angeles, and having seen my fair share of custody disputes, I can tell you that they can be heart-rending. A parent’s love for their child is unmatched. It’s this love, however, that should allow us to protect them from a long drawn out situation. The battle doesn’t have to be bloody. Talking it out in Mediation is a perfect solution. Divorce Mediation Services and Family Mediation Attorneys are here to help you. Peace Talks is based in Los Angeles and is ready to help you out through this most difficult period in your family’s life. Search the site for more details on custody disputes and child protection.