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Whether you are separated or have already signed the divorce papers, your relationship with your partner may be a tense one.  When there are kids in the picture, they tend to pick up on the discord even if their parents aren’t fighting right in front of them.  Children who are exposed to constant conflict between their parents can suffer from serious effects, including anxiety, depression, academic issues, and behavioural problems.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help keep the drama out of their lives.

Talk to Them:  Shielding your children from conflict doesn’t mean that you can keep them completely in the dark.  They need to know and understand what is happening to their family, even if they can’t comprehend the depths of the reasons behind it.  Let your kids know that you are trying to do what will be best for everyone in the long run, and that both you and your partner love them very much.  Also, make sure you keep the conversation on their level.  They don’t need to know about adult issues.

Refuse to Argue:  You undoubtedly have a lot of issues to work out with your spouse:  how assets will be split, who will have the kids when, and who is responsible for what debts.  You also probably don’t agree on these issues, but you must remember not to argue about them in front of the kids.  While two adults discussing their problems in a mature and calm manner is very good for a child to see, a screaming match is not.  Even if your ex attempts to pick a fight with you during pick up or drop off times, remain calm and insist that the two of you will talk about it later.  You’ll come out the bigger person in the end.

Never Badmouth:  It may be really tempting to explain to your child that her dad doesn’t pay his child support or that her mom forgot her birthday.  It may seem as though you are helping her understand what’s going on around her, but it will only make her feel sad and dejected.  Even if you aren’t arguing with your former spouse directly in front of your child, badmouthing her other parent still pulls her directly into the conflict.  It can also make your child turn against you when she chooses not to believe what you’re saying.  No matter how true they are, keep your negative comments to yourself.

Don’t Use Them:  Your children should never act as the messenger between you and your kids.  Don’t ask them to remind their dad to pay his child support or ask mom what’s being done with the money.  They are not spies who must report back to you about what’s going on at your ex’s house.  Grilling them about the other side of things can make them feel as though they have to lie or choose a side.  Instead, encourage them to have a good relationship with their other parent.

As difficult as separation and divorce may be, remember that it is just as hard on your kids.  Their world is completely changing, and they may see it as a very traumatic thing.  Do your best to help them understand without allowing them to be immersed in the conflict.  Keep the negativity at bay by talking things through and playing nice.  It might not feel like what you want to do right now, but it will pay off in the long run.