Parenting Facilitation | Court Ordered Parenting Coordination

Dear Mom and Dad

  1. Do not talk badly about my other parent. (This makes me feel torn apart! It also makes me feel bad about myself.)
  2. Do not talk about my other parent’s friends or relatives. (Let me care for someone even if you don’t.)
  3. Do not talk about the divorce or other grown-up stuff. (This makes me feel sick. Please leave me out of it.)
  4. Do not talk about child support. (This makes me feel guilty or like I’m a possession instead of your kid.)
  5. Do not make me feel bad when I enjoy time with my other parent. (This makes me afraid to tell you things.)
  6. Do not block my visits or prevent me from speaking to my other parent on the phone. (This makes me very upset.)
  7. Do not interrupt my time with my other parent by calling too much or by planning my activities during our time together.
  8. Do not argue in front of me or on the phone when I can hear you. (This turns my stomach inside out!)
  9. Do not ask me to spy for you when I’m at my other parent’s home. (This makes me feel disloyal and dishonest.)
  10. Do not ask me to keep secrets from my other parent. (Secrets make me feel anxious.)
  11. Do not ask me questions about my other parent’s life. (This makes me uncomfortable. Just let me tell you.)
  12. Do not give me verbal messages to deliver to my other parent. (I end up feeling anxious about their reaction. Please call them, leave them a message at work or put a note in the mail.)
  13. Do not send written messages with me or place them in my bag. (This also makes me uncomfortable.)
  14. Do not blame my other parent for the divorce or for things that go wrong in your life. (This really feels terrible! I end up wanting to defend them from your attack. Sometimes it makes me feel sorry for you and want to protect you. I just want to be a kid, so please, please…stop putting me in the middle!)
  15. Do not treat me like an adult. (It causes way too much stress for me.) Please find a friend or therapist to talk with.
  16. Do not ignore my other parent or sit on opposite sides of the room during my school or sports activities. (This makes me feel sad and embarrassed. Please act like parents and be friendly, even if it is just for me.)
  17. Do let me take items to my other home as long as I can carry them back and forth. (Otherwise it feels like you are treating me like a possession.)
  18. Do not use guilt to pressure me to love you more and do not ask me where I want to live.
  19. Do realize that I have two homes, not just one. (It doesn’t matter how much time I spend there.) I’d also really appreciate it if you would let my other parent come into our house every now and then, because it’s my home too!
  20. Do let me love both of you and see each of you as much as possible!

Copyright 1997 Boyan and Termini | Source: Parenting Coordination Central

Parents Argue...Kids React

Typical Reactions to Divorce

In order to help your child adjust, it is important that you recognize normal reactions to separation and divorce. Knowing what to expect may help you determine if your child would benefit from therapy or other services. Suggestions to assist your child adjust to their new family structure are noted at each age level as well as at the end of this page.

  • Loss of developmental accomplishments (return to bottle/crawling, waking in the night)
  • Upset when their needs are overlooked or when caretaking schedules are unpredictable
  • Demonstrates fear by clinging to parent and refusing to separate from parent
  • Exhibits intense feelings of frustration and anger through biting, hitting, throwing toys
  • May not interact with adult caregivers
  • Loss of interest in exploring their environment
  • Make sure the daily routine is reasonably consistent
  • Initially keep child-care arrangements intact
  • Maintain consistent drop-off and pick-up times
  • Allow your child to take one or two familiar objects with them as they move back and forth between caregivers
  • Establish frequent and consistent contact with both parents
  • Avoid long separations from either parent
  • Loss of developmental accomplishments (return to bottle, soiling self, baby talk, etc.)
  • Confusion over the cause of the divorce and how it will effect their own life
  • Belief that they are responsible for the divorce
  • Fears of rejection and abandonment
  • May demonstrate separation anxiety
  • May exhibit anger and aggression toward other children or siblings
  • Temper tantrums may increase
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • May appear joyless, listless and withdrawn
  • Reassure them that they will be taken care of
  • Reassure them that they are not the cause of the divorce
  • Keep parental routines as consistent as possible
  • Inform your child when you are leaving and communicate that you will return
  • Maintain firm and consistent discipline
  • Help them relax before bedtime by engaging in soothing activities
  • Preoccupation with feelings of sadness, loss, rejection and guilt
  • May cry easily, act cranky, and be anxious
  • Distractible, difficulty concentrating, decline in school performance
  • Complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other physical complaints
  • Attempts to actively reunite their parents (sometimes by having problems that force parental involvement)
  • Strong sense of responsibility to take care of their parents
  • Prevent your child from taking on the role of adult
  • Discuss feelings and emotions
  • Help them to relax and feel less responsible for adult matters
  • Continue to act like the responsible adult and do not share adult information with them
  • Exhibits sadness, loneliness, insecurity, anger and feelings of helplessness
  • Feel alone and frightened, but since they are easily embarrassed they may pretend to act “cool”
  • Complaints of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments
  • Takes sides and chooses one parent over the other
  • Have a strong sense of loyalty and may tend to rescue and side with the “wronged” parent
  • Adopt an adult role
  • Decline in school performance
  • Engage in stealing, lying, or refusing to go to school
  • Become involved in sexual behavior
  • Acknowledge your child’s anger and attempt to change those things that are most upsetting
  • Prevent your child from choosing sides
  • Less talkative and temporarily withdraw to cope with their feelings and emotions
  • Exhibit angry and rebellious behavior
  • Become sexually active
  • Use drugs and alcohol as a way to escape
  • Decline in school performance
  • Preoccupied with a sense of family
  • May adopt an adult role
  • Implement and maintain discipline
  • Set limits
  • Be awake when your teenager returns home
  • Discourage your child from assuming an adult role
  • Establish new family traditions
  • Plan for at least one family meal per week
  • Make yourself available when they first go to bed when they may be more available to share
  • Encourage open and honest communications between parent and child.  Allow your child to express their fears, concerns, and complaints.
  • Avoid relying on your child as a source of emotional support.
  • Answer your child’s questions honestly and patiently without providing adult information that would cause undue stress.  When your child asks you a question that is difficult to answer due to its personal nature, respond by saying, “It’s okay for you to ask me questions.  Sometimes I may not give you an answer because I don’t feel comfortable sharing it with you at the time.  Please respect my privacy and I will respect yours.”
  • Reassure your child that they will be taken care of, that you still love them, and that the divorce was not their fault.
  • Minimize positive and negative change.  As much as possible maintain the same residence, school, church, and child-care facilities. 
  • Help your child maintain contact with friends and extended family on both sides.
  • Prepare your child for changes before the change happens.
  • Do not let your child determine if and when they spend time with the other parent.  Make this an adult decision so they are less likely to feel caught in the middle or inappropriately empowered.
  • Permit your child to love both parents.
  • Provide a stable and secure home by practicing.
  • Make your own recovery a priority.  Your child’s adjustment may mirror your own.
  • Provide consistent discipline, maintaining rules, limits and consistent daily routines and schedules. 
  • Children at any age may become overly compliant and not appear to be impacted negatively by the separation.  This is not necessarily an indication that your child is doing well.  They may be harmed by your divorce reactions but internalizing their pain.
  • Post the co-parenting rules and honor them. (see Co-Parenting Rules)

Adapted from Boyan and Termini, 2008

The Rules for Co-Parenting are:

  1. Do not talk negatively, or allow others to talk negatively, about the other parent, their family and friends, or their home in hearing range of the child.  This would include belittling remarks, ridicules, or bringing up allegations that are valid or invalid about adult issues.
  2. Do not question the children about the other parent or the activities of the other parent regarding their personal lives.  In specific terms, do not use the child to spy on the other parent.
  3. Do not argue or have heated conversations when the children are present or during exchanges.
  4. Do not make promises to the children to try and win them over at the expense of the other parent.
  5. Do communicate with the other parent and make similar rules in reference to discipline, routines, sleeping arrangements, and schedules.  Appropriate discipline should be exercised by mutually agreed upon adults.
  6. At all times, the decisions made by the parents will be for the child’s psychological, spiritual, and physical well being and safety.
  7. Parenting time arrangements will be made and confirmed beforehand between the parents without involving the child.
  8. Do notify each other in a timely manner of need to deviate from the order including canceling time with the child, rescheduling, and promptness.
  9. Do not schedule activities for the child during the other parent’s time with the child without the other parent’s consent. However, both parents will work together to allow the child to be involved in extracurricular activities.
  10. Do keep the other parent informed of any scholastic, medical, psychiatric, or extracurricular activities or appointments of the child.
  11. Do keep the other parent informed at all times of your address and telephone number.  If you are out of town with the child, do provide the other parent the address and phone number where the children may be reached in case of an emergency
  12. Do refer to the other parent as the child’s “mother” or “father” in conversation, rather than using the parent’s first name, last name, or “my ex.”
  13. Do not bring the child into adult issues and conversations about custody, the court, or about the other party.
  14. Do not ask the child where he or she wants to live.
  15. Do not attempt to alienate the other parent from the child’s life.
  16. Do not allow stepparents or others to negatively alter or modify your relationship with the other parent.
  17. Do not use phrases that draw the children into your issues or make the children feel guilty about the time spent with the other parent.  Do not say “I miss you!”  Do say, “I love you!”

Copyright 2012 © Between Two Homes® LLC. | Source: Children in the Middle

Recommended Reading for Parents

Blau, Melinda.  Loving and Listening:  A Book of Daily Inspiration for Rebuilding the Family After Divorce.

Boyan, Susan and Termini, Ann Marie.  Cooperative Parenting and Divorce:  A Parent Guide to Effective Co-Parenting.  Parenting Coordination Central and Cooperative Parenting Institute

Cohen, Miriam Galper.  Long-Distance Parenting:  A Guide for Divorced Parenting.  New York:  New American Library, 1989

Marston, Stephanie.  The Divorced Parent:  Success Strategies for Raising Your Children after Separation.  New York:  Marrow, 1994

Northrup, Christiane.  Kids First

Passick, Robert, Ph.D.  Awakening from the Deep Sleep:  A Powerful Guide for Courageous Men.  California:  Harper San Francisco, 1992