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Lori Gephart
Lori Gephart, Licensed Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  Licensed Psychologist and Hypnotherapist 20 years of experience helping clients of all ages.
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My husband and I are planning to divorce. We have a three year

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My husband and I are planning to divorce. We have a three year old boy, and are concerned about how to minimize the impact on him. What should we expect from his behavior as a result of the split up? What can we do to minimize the impact on him? This is our greatest concern.

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I'm sorry to hear that you are having a difficult time. One of the most important things you can do for your son is to be sure to not use him as a pawn in your divorce. He should not be given negative messages about either parent and should be allowed to love both of you. Keeping a low conflict level between yourself and his father is also very important for your son to feel safe and secure. The best book on this subject that I can recommend is Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way


You may notice some regression temporarily which may include temper tantrums, potty training issues, being clingy etc. However, these should only be temporary as long as you and his father remember to not put him in the middle. If you do see behavior problems, you can also work on positive parenting. Keep in mind that any behavior that gets attention is likely to continue happening. It has been called the law of the soggy potato chip in that if a child thinks that he has a choice between a soggy potato chip or no chip at all, he will choose the soggy chip. If your son feels that he has the choice between negative attention or no attention at all, he will choose the negative attention and so he will act out until he gets it. The only way for this pattern to stop is to begin to catch the good behaviors and reward them with attention, and to calmly and matter of factly give consequences for the negative behaviors with as little attention as possible. A very good book on this subject is Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes: A Family Peace Plan by Cynthia Whitham MSW. The more consistent you are with this positive parenting, the more secure your son will feel and the more his behavior should improve.


In the meantime, remember to work on taking care of yourself and give yourself permission to be happy and healthy. I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Lori. This information is very helpful. If you don't mind, I have a bit more I'd like to ask to get some clarification. I am the mother, and am looking to purchase a new house as my husband and I separate.

My goal is to move into this house as soon as possible, but to move only once because I fear the mutiple transitions would have a negative impact on my 3 year old. What are your thoughts about this? Also, how can I prepare my son for the move into a new home? We would like to have him spend half the week with me, and half with his dad. Is there any reason why we should not have this arrangement for a boy so young?

Thank you. These are my greatest concerns.
Thank you for the additional information. I agree that the fewer transitions can help with your son's adjustment. 3 year olds don't need a lot of notice. However, allowing him to help to pick out something for his room in the new home and to visit it shortly before the move can be helpful, as can reading books about moving. Keeping some similar routines for him, such as his bedtime routine, in the new home is important. Be careful not to feel sorry for him and give in with limits and rules as these are important to help him to feel safe. Shared custody, particularly if he can have some contact with the other parent during the visit (Skype can be helpful for a 3 year old to be able to see you while he is gone) is generally a healthy arrangement as long as both parents can work together. I wish you the best of luck with this.
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