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Custody Wars

How does anyone ever really win a war? How can anyone ever measure the true cost, or know with any relative certainty the cost was worth the victory? When the war is over custody of children between divorcing parents, there is no winner, no victor, and the costs are immeasurable.

Ending a marriage when there are young and dependent children involved can break down the strongest of the strong. It’s normal for one or both parent to be mentally and physically drained, financially scared, uncertain about the future, and disheartened to be speaking to the person they once loved enough to make their babies with through respective lawyers. After all that, the children need to be fed, they need help with their homework and maybe a bedtime story, and then it’s time to do the laundry and wash the dirty dishes. This is no recipe for anyone being at their best.

If it’s this difficult for the parents, imagine what the kids are thinking and feeling? The very adults they looked to for guidance and direction seem to have lost their compass. Just as the kids are filled with an endless list of questions from simple to sometimes seemingly impossible to answer, they need to just be quiet because everyone around them is tired and in a bad mood, a very bad mood. While the parents may be struggling to cope with their losses, children can be overwhelmed with fear of the insecurities they see all around them. Children suffer losses, too, they show their reactions differently from adults.

With this backdrop, the next step is to decide how child custody will be settled. In the best of circumstances, both parents put their needs and happiness of their children first and agree to a workable plan. In a less ideal circumstance, parents battle, maybe need mediation, compromise and agree on arrangements they don’t want but realize are the best of the least options, and eventually, adjust. In the very worst of circumstances, one parent works to poison a child’s mind against the other parent, putting their own feelings and needs before their child. What makes these cases extra tough is that this parent typically feels entitled with no concept of the harm being cause to the child.

There are no easy or fast solutions in these situations but there are some little things you can do. If you need to bash your ex, call a friend or your mom when you kids can’t hear you. Leave the pile of laundry and the dishes long enough to sit with your child and listen before you reassure. Make it a goal to have at least a few minutes of fun every day. Even though you may be exhausted, read a short bedtime story rather than no story at all. Most important of all, and you can do laundry and dishes at the same time, think back to when you were a kid and you got really scared. Try to remember what that felt like, and who you turned to for help and comfort. For your child that person is you.

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