New Traditions Ease Kids' Pain In Divorce
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico

At a recent seminar for judges, lawyers and therapists who work with divorce we discussed how useful it might be to create new traditions about how members of divorced families should behave.

As it is, many divorcing people seem to learn how they should conduct themselves from movies and television. However, drama is seldom a wise teacher, because drama thrives on exaggerated and intense words and deeds which are not effective inreal-life-settings. Some ideas for new, helpful traditions are:

Divorced parents can maintain a notebook that is transported between their homes in which each parent jots down events of some importance that their child or children experienced while in their care. The notations could include descriptions of illnesses, school projects, and minor tragedies or triumphs that otherwise would go unmentioned. This log-book could keep each parent better informed of their child's life in each home. It could also be a diary of memories that would be otherwise forgotten. It could be treasure to a child when grown and to the child's children, when they come along, as part of an intimate, detailed family history.

A common custom is to take a token gift when we visit someone else's home. Children could do so as well when they go back and forth, A plate of cookies, a handful of flowers, or other small ways to celebrate a coming together or reunion and to remind of the importance of courtesy.

At least one parent, and often both, will move into a new home or apartment when divorce occurs. One way to create a sense of putting down new family roots is to put down new plant roots. A parent and child could plant a tree in the back yard or go to a nursery and buy two house plants, one for each of the child's two homes. This could create an element of consistency to help the child realize that while his two homes are different from each other, there are some commonalities as well. It also could help the child create a nest at each home to help maintain a sense of belonging to a place from which the child is frequently absent.

Each child has only one birthday. When the child has two homes, that one day can become a battleground. Too often parents celebrate their children's accomplishments instead of their existence when the reverse would be a better practice. De-emphasizing the day of a holiday or special event could reduce conflict and provide a child a continuing sense of being loved rather than experiencing short bursts of celebratory affection related to the calendar.

It is important for divorced parents to help their children feel comfortable and guilt-free about wanting to be with the other parent and enjoying that time to the fullest. Small rituals can become valued traditions that can bind a separated family with threads of shared pleasure.

For more Anne Kass articles, go here to select from complete list of 97 articles

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