Pre-Divorce Counseling: Making Joint Custody Healthy for Your Kids (and You!)

No matter the ages of your children when you divorce, you both want to be important in their lives going forward and to be able to do so without conflict between you and your ex-spouse. After all, you’ll be seeing each other at graduations, weddings, the births of grandchildren.

More importantly, you are your children’s most important teachers: It is from you that they learn about marriage and relationships (good and not-so-good). Your behavior during the separation and divorce can have a profound impact on your children as they mature and begin to have relationships of their own.

During the early periods of separation and divorce, your children need you to be particularly responsive and attentive to their own emotional needs. Your consistency in addressing their emotions can make a critical difference in your kids’ well-being during this process and beyond. If you and your spouse are calm, able to listen to your kids’ concerns and answer their questions, the events have the potential to be less traumatic. And, remember, these experiences are what they will take into adulthood and which can influence how they handle their own adult relationships.

Realize your kids may have a range of emotions during the initial period of separation and divorce.  Many are frustrated by having to travel between households and remembering to take things with them as they go to the other parent’s home. They may miss the family as a unit, the way things were, the neighborhood friends they don’t see as often.

While you can’t “fix” any of these issues, it’s critical that children feel heard and that they can count on your consistent caring and attention.  And, meeting your kids’ needs can be far easier when the conflict between you and your spouse is minimized.

Using the key concepts of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, the most-successful model of helping couples, this brief and short-term process of Pre-Divorce Counseling is designed to:

–Help you both understand the painful cycle of arguing and disconnection that took over your marriage. You’ll learn to minimize or eliminate blaming each other for the difficulties that ended your relationship.

–Discover and address what blocks or gets in the way of your having a peaceful, healthy approach to co-parenting

–Improve communication between both of you by using the new understanding that is emerging in this process. Learn to manage strong emotions so you can have productive conversations about issues related to the well-being of your children.

–Connect on a deeper level to how you are a role model to your children. Again, you are your kids’ most powerful teachers. It is from what they see in your relationship that they may form their own beliefs about adult relationships.  It’s sometimes not too late, however, for you to model healthy communication and positive ways of coping with challenging situations that can occur in adult relationships.

A side benefit is that each of you has the opportunity to develop important insight into your own deeper beliefs about behaviors in your important relationships, with the potential to pave the way to healthier relationships in the future.

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Linda Schwartz is a Licensed Professional Counselor who limits her practice to helping couples and individuals with relationship concerns. She uses Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, the most-successful approach to helping couples improve their relationship. This approach to helping couples provides for both partners to be heard and understood, avoids blame and helps couples reconnect and rebuild emotional closeness and connection. To learn more, visit Linda’s web site at www.awarecounseling.com.