Tips for keeping your family together during a divorce

Mutual respect between parents will help keep your children comfortable during a separation.

By Marion Küstenmacher and Werner Tiki Küstenmacher

Patchwork families: Step-parents and stepchildren
A divorce is always terrible, for both partners and especially for the children. If you have children and have found a new partner or if your new partner has children, it can all seem very complicated at first. There are a lot of opportunities for everyone involved to behave poorly and hurt someone's feelings. But it can also make your life more colourful and surprising, just like a patchwork quilt. Here are the most important simplifying suggestions:

Don't ask too much of your children. More than anything, a child wishes for his or her parents to love and appreciate one another. It causes inner conflict for the child when he or she has to choose between the two of them. Often parents want to give their children the choice of whom they want to live with after a separation. Our simplifying advice is don't do it. On this point, the parents must agree. Don't put your child in the terrible position of having to choose between the two of you and thereby disappoint the other one. A child has a right to both parents. Forcing a child to choose between his or her father and mother (which can also happen in problematic marriages) results in an unsure, indecisive adult.

Don't talk badly about each other in front of your child. This is one of the most common errors of single or remarried parents: they speak - often with good reason and without bad intention - badly of the other parent. But the child is made up of 50 per cent mother and 50 per cent father. If the mother says bad things about the father, the child unconsciously concludes the 50 per cent or him- or herself is no good, leading to low self-esteem. Or the child allies her- or himself secretly with the maligned partner and is then angry at the other parent.

Simplifying tip: The best thing is to not only speak well of your ex, but also to think well of your ex. Say to yourself and to the child: "He (or she) is a wonderful person, but we simply don't fit together."

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Excerpted from How to Simplify Your Love, copyright 2008 by Marion Küstenmacher and Werner Tiki Küstenmacher. Used by permission of McGraw-Hill Companies.

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