Family First: Helping Kids Cope With Divorce

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The divorce rate in America bounces somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, and government polls show about half of the 60 million children under 13 are likely living with only one parent, but children of divorce don't have to grow up forever scarred by it. We have some advice in this Family First report.

Divorces are traumatic for anyone involved, and time and time again they are shown to greatly impact children. It's a tough transition for sure, but Marathon County Judge Greg Grau, who's dealt with a number of marital cases, says a divorce shouldn't mean the end of good parenting.

Grau say, "The system really tries to get parents to understand the absolute need for them to co-parent once they become divorced."

Judge Grau says fortunately most divorcing parents can come to terms with their custody issues and forge agreements that put the child's needs first. Studies show the less hostility and bitterness a child witnesses between the divorcing parents, the better for the child. The long-term involvement of both parents after the divorce is a major factor in how well children will cope.

Family Liaison Beth Alexander says kids will naturally have a lot of questions so try to make your explanations age-appropriate and depending on their maturity.

"One of the mistakes parents tend to make is either they tell their children nothing," says Alexander, "or treat them little adults and tell them a little too much."

Alexander has been through her own divorce and says kids often look at the breakup of the marriage as a broken promise, but you can make sure your children know their relationship with both parents is still alive and well.

She says, "Not just saying, but proving I love you and what happened with mom and dad is unfortunate, but I still love you."

Relatives, friends and neighbors can help a child keep their life as stable as possible even during the turmoil, and when children are experiencing anger or sadness over the divorce, try to offer them a neutral person to talk things out with.

Studies say the hardest ages for kids to handle divorce is during transition periods like first grade and the beginning of adolescence.