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For children, separation stress is impossible to avoid

Experts warn that children get stress from a pair of primary sources after a divorce. The first is the stress of constantly moving back and forth. It is best for the child to stay involved with both parents, but that does mean moving from one house to the other constantly. The second stressor is the separation from a parent that the child loves.

You can lessen the stress from movement in some ways. Parents strive to find excellent custody arrangements that allow the children to stay near their friends, their schools, and the like. The kids don't have to give up their peer groups. Parents work rigorously to stick to the schedule, always picking the child up or dropping the child off on time. Movement is unavoidable, but parents work hard to make the transitions smooth and seamless, and the child gets used to it over time.

The second stressor, though, is simply unavoidable. Worse yet, it's happening 100 percent of the time. If the child is with your ex, he or she is separated from you. When the child returns to you, he or she is then separated from your ex.

Minimizing fallout as best as possible

Your relationship, as a married couple, has ended. But your child still has a close bond to both of you. If you're still a relatively young parent - perhaps your child is in grade school and you're still in your 30s - the child is growing and developing significantly. That bond is changing. But it's present with both parents, and the child by definition must be away from one of you all of the time.

Yes, this is unavoidable since you're not living together. But don't overlook the emotional and even psychological impact it has on the child. As an adult, you're independent. You're used to living on your own. You know that the divorce was the right choice and you're happy with your life. The same cannot be said for your child, who loves and is dependent on both of you. Just because the process doesn't stress you out doesn't mean your child doesn't feel it.

Shorter intervals of separation can help

So, what can you do? Some experts note that trading the child back and forth more often can reduce the stress. A child may really start to miss one parent or the other when living away from them for 5-10 days. If the child knows it's just a two-day break, though, the stress is somewhat mitigated. The child gets to relax and enjoy being with both of you.

Of course, this isn't a perfect solution. It's more work for you. It means mid-week transitions. It also can increase the stress on the child from those transitions - due to complex schedules, travel time, and never really getting to settle into either home.

The key, then, is to really consider your specific situation and your child's needs and desires. Your child may be young, but don't be afraid to get his or her input. Find out what provides the least stress for the child and design your plan around it. When making all decisions, consider the child's needs first.

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