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Recognizing the challenges of parental divorce for an only child

Divorcing parents who have multiple children may believe that they have to deal with more challenges than couples with just one child. After all, they have to help kids of different ages cope with all of the changes to their lives and work out a custody arrangement that considers all of their needs and schedules.

However, divorcing parents of an only child have their own unique challenges. Often, only children see their family as the "Three Musketeers." Now that tight little group is being torn apart. Only children may also be more likely to blame themselves for their parents' break-up. Finally, only children have no siblings to share the experience with.

All of this means that divorcing parents of an only child need to be particularly careful about how they present the break-up to their child and how they help them adjust to their new family structure.

It's especially important to tell your child about the separation and/or impending divorce together. How much detail you give them depends on their age and maturity. No matter how old they are, they don't need to know everything.

The crucial thing is that they understand that you'll both continue to be their parent and to take care of them even though you'll no longer be living together. The sooner you can develop a new and consistent routine and get your child used to spending time with each of you separately, the easier it should be for them to adjust to their new life.

Make sure that your child has a strong support system. Let them spend time with their friends as well as adults whom they like and trust. Kids often feel more comfortable talking about their feelings with people outside their family.

You might not want to share information about your divorce with teachers, counselors, coaches or other parents. However, if there are adults in your child's life who can be a source of comfort and guidance, it's best that they at least know your child might need them.

Divorcing parents of an only child may find it challenging to work out and commit to a custody arrangement because they have to get used to being alone during the time that their child isn't with them. However, your child's well-being should be your primary focus. Your family law attorney can help you keep that focus.

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