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What divorcing parents can learn from adult children of divorce

If neither you nor your soon-to-be ex grew up with divorced parents, you can't fully understand how your children may feel about their parents splitting up. This is true regardless of how many books and articles you read about healthy co-parenting.

You can gain valuable insights from other adults whose parents were divorced. Although their experience as children of divorce may have been decades ago, children's feelings about their parents breaking up haven't changed significantly over the years.

Following are a few things that some people say they wish their parents had understood and done when they divorced:

Reassure the kids that you still love them. You might think that's obvious, but kids feel insecure about many things when their families and their worlds change. They may blame themselves for their parents' problems -- particularly if some of the fights involved them.

Not spending as much time with one or both parents can compound their doubts about their parents' feelings toward them. You can never say "I love you" too much to your kids. It's also essential to reassure them that the divorce has nothing to do with them or anything they did wrong.

Don't tell your kids how to feel. Kids need to be able to express their feelings, including anger, fear and sadness. This can help you better communicate with them and understand any manifestations of those feelings, like acting out, increasingly retreating to their rooms or doing poorly in school.

Don't speak poorly of your co-parent or ask your kids to be intermediaries between the two of you. Criticizing a co-parent -- particularly if you're finding fault with their character as opposed to something they did -- can be interpreted by a child as a criticism of themselves. After all, they are part of that parent too. No matter how you feel about your co-parent or something they did, you should never criticize them in front of or to your kids.

If you can't find a way to communicate amicably with your co-parent face-to-face, find some other, less personal means of communication. Don't use your kids as messengers.

If you and your co-parent can commit to putting your love for your children above any resentments you have toward each other, you can raise healthy, happy kids. As adults, they may come to see that their parents' divorce was for the best.

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