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Putting Children First During Family Conflicts

As part of our ongoing commitment to educate parents about the most effective means of protecting children from the detrimental effects of high-conflict disputes, we have outlined a few strategies and advice on helping to make the separation of their parents less stressful for children.  The list contains many of the same guidelines The Child Law Center follows in its proven-effective legal representation program. What our program ultimately does, is remind parents that no matter how difficult separation and divorce may be, measures must be put into place to protect their children from the dispute occurring between the two people upon whom they depend most.

  • Minimize Loss
  • Maximize Relationships
  • Stability of placement is considered in the context of developmental needs.
  • Parents are more important that alternative care providers.
  • The parenting plan must consider the needs of the older child for peer contact and the changing parent/child relationship.
  • School-age children may need multiple parenting plans: one for the regular school year, one for summer vacation, one for winter vacation and one for spring break.
  • Regardless of the schedule, children should be with their mother on her birthday and Mother’s Day and with their father on his birthday and on Fathers Day.
  • Children are unique individuals and can each benefit from some one-on-one time with their parents.
  • The role of parents is to cooperate to provide as many opportunities for their children as possible.
  • Clear definitions of terms are required, for example: “A weekend begins when the child leaves the school for the last time before Saturday. The weekend ends when the child enters the school for the first time after Sunday.”
  • Focus at the process level, blame the processes that didn’t work and change it rather than blame either parent. Each parent is 100% in charge of 50% of the parenting relationship and 0% in charge of the other 50%.

This information was provided by Stephen Carter, Ph.D, R.Psych, Bonnie Haave, Ph.D., R. Psych., and Shirley Vandersteen, Ph.D, R.Psych, at the AFCC 46th Annual Conference, Pre-Conference Instiute “Family Restructuring Therapy for High Conflict Families.”

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