Therapeutic Interventions

Describe the status of the current separation or divorce and indicate its effect on the child and family including daily routines, emotional stability, custody, visitation, and possible moves. (1, 2, 3)

Reassure the child about personal security express an awareness of and empathy for the child's fears and

1. Meet with both parents jointly or separately, if necessary, to assess the current family situation and the effects of the separation or divorce on the child.

2. Ask the parents to detail immediate plans for the child including custody, visitation, or possible moves.

3. Assign the parents to read books that describe the effects of divorce on children (e.g., Helping Children Cope with Divorce by Teyber).

4. Assist the parents in establishing a time and method of telling the child about the plans to separate or divorce and instruct them to commit to maintain a close, loving relationship. (4, 5, 6)

3. List signs and symptoms of the child's emotional distress that will, if they occur, trigger a plan for addressing these problems. (7, 8)

4. Express acceptance of the child's feelings and give guidance as to appropriate methods for feelings' expression. (9, 10, 11)

express an awareness of and empathy for the fearful feelings created by this action.

5. Assign the parents to shield the child from their personal arguments and to resist the temptation to use the child as a go-between in their disputes.

6. Instruct the parents that a loving, positive relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the child and caution them against blaming one another or making derogatory comments about the other parent to the child.

7. Instruct the parents to watch for signs that the child is experiencing excessive sadness, anger, fear, or feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

8. Advise the parents to schedule individual counseling for the child if the reaction to the divorce is creating serious mental health problems.

9. Use role play with the parents to teach them to respond to the child's feelings in a nurturing, supportive, nondefensive manner.

10. Discuss and role play with the parents the techniques of using "I" statements and active listening when discussing the divorce and family plans (see Parent Effectiveness Training by Gordon).

11. Assign the parents to read How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk (Faber and Mazlish) to develop skills

5. List financial needs and resources and develop an equitable plan for meeting the basic requirements of all family members. (12, 13)

6. Seek mediation if financial or other disputed divorce issues become difficult to resolve.(14, 15)

7. Verbalize a commitment to collaborate to resolve all problems and concerns involving the children. (16, 17)

8. Clearly state to the children that divorce is a parental for positive communication with the child.

12. Assign the parents to create a list of all family assets and a corresponding list of family needs; assist the parents in determining how to allocate the assets to cover the basic needs of all the family members.

13. Solicit a verbal commitment from both parents to work together to provide financial support for their children until they reach adulthood.

14. Assign the parents to seek information about divorce litigation and family mediation by accessing information from the Internet (e.g., National Mediation:, Divorce Resolutions:

www. coloradodivorcemediation .com).

15. Instruct the parents to seek mediation if they are unable to reach an agreement about financial issues, custody, or visitation.

16. Assist the parents in establishing custody and visitation arrangements that are conducive to the emotional stability of the children involved.

17. Encourage the co-parents to reassure the children about their personal security and to express an awareness of and empathy for their feelings in reaction to the changes occurring in the family structure.

18. Instruct the parents to reassure the child that separation and decision not the result of any child-based activity. (18, 19)

9. Inform the child's school about the change in family status and request the staff's help in resolving school-related issues. (20, 21, 22)

10. Express awareness that divorce can create severe emotional disruption for children of all ages and that limiting volatility and change can help reduce distress. (23, 24)

divorce is an adult decision that the child did not cause to happen (or to assign the "Divorce Is Not My Fault" activity from the Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

19. Assign the parents to read Divorce Is Not the End of the World (Stern, Stern, and Stern) with their child to clarify that divorce is an adult decision.

20. Instruct the parents to inform the child's teacher or the school counselor about their plans to separate or divorce and ask to be informed of any signs of the child's distress and emotional reactions in the school setting.

21. Advise the parents to request that supportive services be given to the child at school (e.g., divorce group counseling, individual counseling, academic support, peer mentoring) to help with the adjustment to the family disruption.

22. Assist the parents in developing a post-separation plan for managing school-related issues.

23. Assign the parents to give appropriate consideration to the effects on the child before making plans for change involving custody, visitation, or possible moves.

24. Assign the parents to read Children of Divorce: A Developmental Approach to Residence and Visitation (Baris and Garrity) to gain an understanding of the challenges their children will face in adjusting to

11. Establish safe and stable housing for the family. (25, 26)

12. Seek information or professional guidance in the area of child management within the context of separation and/or divorce. (27)

13. Negotiate and agree upon strategies that each parent can utilize when disciplining the children. (28, 29)

14. Utilize techniques of positive discipline to address all the new custody and visitation arrangements.

25. Encourage the parents to limit change and volatility by allowing the children and the custodial parent to remain in the current housing arrangement, if it is financially feasible and suitable.

26. Assign the parents to assess their post-separation or divorce arrangements for housing and the neighborhood environment in terms of safety, stability, and suitability and determine if poor and unsafe living conditions are contributing to increased family volatility.

27. Refer the parents to a child management class (e.g., Becoming a Love and Logic Parent by Fay, Cline, and Fay or The Parent Talk System by Moorman and Knapp); discuss the application of the techniques learned to their family situation.

28. Instruct the parents to continue to have reasonable expectations for their child's behavior and to discipline in a loving, compassionate, yet firm, manner, which holds the child accountable.

29. Instruct the parents to use a collaborative approach to the larger discipline issues by discussing the problem privately, sharing individual perspectives, brainstorming solutions, and determining an approach that is acceptable to both parties.

30. Teach the parents to offer frequent encouragement and child-behavior concerns. (30, 31, 32)

15. Support each other in child-management issues and eliminate resistance, manipulation, and competition among children and between spouses. (33, 34, 35)

descriptive praise when recognizing positive behavior and to use constructive feedback and guidance when behavior requires redirection.

31. Encourage the parents to prioritize the discipline issues of concern to the family and to address them one by one rather than trying resolve all the behavior problems at once.

32. Advise parents to remain intimately involved in the lives and activities of all of their children; explain that careful monitoring of the children's behavior, although not always appreciated, is an essential responsibility of both the custodial and the noncustodial parent.

33. Advise the parents to avoid power struggles with the child by setting limits with controlled choices (e.g., "Would you rather clean your room on Saturday or Sunday?") and using contingency management strategies that make privileges dependent on responsible behavior (e.g., "You may watch television as soon as you homework is completed.")

34. Teach the parents the importance of reinforcing positive behavior from the child, administering discipline in an even-handed and logical manner, and defusing manipulation and triangulation involving the child and the separated parents.

16. List and assign parenting roles and responsibilities for the post-divorce family. (36, 37)

35. Encourage the parents to avoid "over-parenting" and to encourage independent functioning by determining who owns a problem and allowing the child to solve problems alone or with help and guidance, if necessary.

36. Assist the parents in assigning parental roles so that all of the child's physical, financial, and emotional needs are covered (or have the parents complete the "Assuming Our Parental Responsibilities" activity from the Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

37. Assign the parents to predict emerging needs of the child in the future and to commit to an ongoing relationship and personal involvement with the child that includes nurturing, guidance, discipline, and emotional and financial support.

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