ENTERTAINMENT
08/26/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How To Make Your Divorce Less Tough on Your Kids

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Making the decision to divorce your partner is not something that should be done lightly, especially when there are children involved. On the other hand, unhappy couples should not stay together solely for the sake of the children. If you and your spouse have exhausted all efforts to rehabilitate your relationship and decided that divorce is the right choice for you, Dr. Phil has this advice:

Put your children's needs first.
You have a responsibility to your children to do everything you can to ensure that the divorce doesn't leave permanent scars. Children don't have the voice and ability to tell you what they think, so it is important to make their best interest your best interest. Take an honest look at yourself and what you're doing to impact your children. Tell them that they are priority number one: "You're the most important. You are first in everything we think and do, and we're going to take care of you."

Create a new relationship with your ex-spouse.
Don't think of the divorce as ending the relationship with your ex-husband or ex-wife. Instead, think of it as starting a new one. Your new relationship as divorced parents involves being co-allies, nurturers and protectors of your children. Consider going to post-marital counseling, where you can create a parenting plan and resolve your differences, so you can clearly see what is in the best interest of your children. Find a way to make your children feel that everywhere they turn they see love, support and appreciation.

Communicate clearly with your children.
If communication is vague, children fill in the blanks to the detriment of themselves. They will blame themselves and think that it's their fault that things have happened. Children can take anything and personalize it. For example, they'll hear Mom and Dad fighting about money, and they'll go in their room and say, “Oh, my gosh, I needed $20 yesterday for the school lunches. And if I didn't eat all the time, maybe they wouldn't be fighting.”

Don't put your kids in the middle.
Resolve that there is not going to be a tug- of-war. Don't put the children in between you and your ex and start pulling on them for their allegiance. Don't use your children as pawns to find out about the other person or get back at your ex.

Dr. Phil's Dos and Dont's for Co-Parenting with Your Ex.

Fight in private.
Parents must stop the right-fighting and make a plan to help their children make it through the transition with as little trauma as possible. The kids don’t care who’s right; They want you to shut up! If parents are filled with bitterness and angst and resentment, then their children are going to get pulled back and forth, and that's not right or fair to them.

Never undermine the other parent.
Don't attack or criticize your ex in front of the children. Take the high ground and put the children above all of your personal wants and needs. If you behave in such a way as to alienate your child’s mother or father from them, they will resent you for it. The day will come when they will say, “You ran your own agenda and it cost us our mother/father.” You may feel like you might win at the time, but in the long term, they will resent you.

Communicate with your ex regarding child rearing decisions.
Make joint decisions about your children’s wellbeing. Don't let the children divide you even further by manipulating the parent who is more lenient, etc.

Decide that your children will not come from a broken home; they are just going to have two homes.
Each parent should set up a home in which the children have a bedroom, toys to play with and space to be kids. Make sure the children feel at home in both places.

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