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Will joint custody in the divorce be easier on my kids?

It is naive to believe that children will not be affected by their parents' divorce. All children — from babies to adults — experience adverse effects when their parents split up.

Parents can help their children weather the storm of divorce and learn to embrace the new normal. Below are some signs to look for in children as they struggle to cope with the changes.

Babies often respond to the sudden absence of one parent by regressing and becoming more infantile. Toddlers often demonstrate separation anxiety that can be extreme and require a lot of additional reassurances that mommy or daddy will return.

The pre-school set is also prone to regression and may have unexpected toileting accidents or tantrums that they previously outgrew. Some become sulky and whiny and may cling inappropriately to others who are not their parents.

By the time the kids are in grade school, they understand they won't be seeing as much of one parent. They may become angry or depressed and develop a fantasy life involving the absent parent. They sometimes assign blame for the divorce to the custodial parent and act out at home.

Those in the tween years of 10 to 12 can experience a great deal of adjustment issues. This is a precarious time, anyway, teetering on one side to childhood, yet feeling the first twinges of adolescent angst and puberty. Discipline problems are common. They can identify strongly with one parent while ostracizing the other.

Teens may act as if all is well and as if they are taking the divorce completely in stride and then suddenly act out by becoming promiscuous, dabbling in drinking or drugs or hanging with a fast crowd. They are likely to share a parent's concerns over finances.

Shared parenting arrangements can alleviate some of the distress children of divorcing parents experience. Speak to your family law attorney to see if joint physical custody could be the right choice for your children.

Source: womansdivorce.com, "Divorce Effects on Children," Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, accessed June 03, 2015

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