Bethenny Frankel: How Can You Make Sure a Custody Battle Doesn't Hurt Your Kids?

RealHousewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel is making headlinesagain after entering a custody battle with her ex Jason Hoppy. The two arefighting for full custody of their only child, Bryn. Will the custody battlehave a negative impact on Bryn?

If you’re facing a custody battle, it’s important to keepyour children’s well-being in mind. How can you make sure they stay emotionallywell during this stressful time? The Cheat Sheet spoke with licensed marriageand family therapist MichelleFarris for tips on how to prevent the custody process from negativelyimpacting your child’s mental health.

TheCheat Sheet: How can you make sure your children don’tsuffer emotionally during a custody battle?  

MichelleFarris: Even though custody battles are known to be contentious,you can make it easier on your kids by keeping things civil. Although settlingout of court is ideal, that’s not always possible.

Having realistic expectations about the custody processwill help you be less frustrated. For instance, don’t assume you will get solecustody. Unless there are issues of abuse that require additional safeguards,the courts realize the importance of both parents playing an active role inyour child’s life. No matter what you think of your ex, consistent visitationneeds to be supported. Your child’s ability to develop trust and feel lovedlargely depends on parental involvement. Without it, they will lack theemotional stability to create healthy relationships in adulthood.

What you can do: Strive to create a fair settlement thatbenefits your child first. Support your child’s relationship with the otherparent as much as you can. By demonstrating respectful behavior towards theother parent, you are role modeling important relationship skills that willlast a lifetime.

CS: Generally,how are children affected when parents get involved in a nasty custody fight?

MF: Whenthere is a custody battle, the child feels torn between warring parents. Theywill blame themselves for what’s happening because the fight centers aroundthem. Seeing their parents battle each other creates a level of stress that canhave lasting consequences. Children end up feeling responsible for theirfamily’s pain. This can trigger issues of depression, anxiety, and destructivebehaviors. Often, their pain is minimized or unseen because the drama of thecustody battle becomes the primary focus.

While feelings of sadness and grief are to be expectedaround the divorce, protect your child’s emotional well-being by shielding themfrom the unpleasant details. They should not be privy to the complaints you haveabout each other. Instead, reassure them that they are loved and that both ofyou are working toward a solution.

CS: Howcan spouses make the custody process more pleasant for each other?

MF: Youhave the power to create a more amicable experience for you and your family.Even when your ex refuses to reciprocate, you can fight for what you believe inwithout getting into the nastiness of fighting. Focus on the facts and don’tembellish to win your case. Demonizing the other parent often backfires andmakes you look vindictive.

Start by hiring the right lawyer. While it’s important tohave an experienced advocate, your attorney is essentially an extension of you.Choosing someone who lacks integrity and focuses on “getting results no matterwhat the cost” can provoke a chain reaction of destructive behavior that’s hardto repair later.

Before hiring legal representation inquire about theirmethods of negotiating. Be mindful that ethical attorneys are assertive withoutbeing verbally manipulative or aggressive. When stating your case, name thespecific behavior without launching a character attack. An effective tool tokeep communication clean is to use “I statements” whenever possible. They arehighly effective to prevent blame and focus your communication on thoughts,observations and subjective experiences, not personal judgments. The courtswant to see humility, not someone claiming to be the superior parent.

Reach a settlement that is in the best interest of yourchildren. Never do anything to alienate your child from the other parent. Ifyou have concerns about your ex’s parenting, express those concerns in aneutral way. When there are issues related to the child’s safety, don’t assumecustody shouldn’t be granted. Supervised visitation provides the child a safemeans to stay connected. While it’s not ideal, it keeps their connectionconsistent which helps the child feel more secure.

CS: Anytips for Bethenny Frankel as she fights to get custody of her daughter?

MF: Bewilling to look at your own behavior first. Taking accountability makes you agood parent. When you avoid taking responsibility for the chaos you’ve created,it only hurts your child further.

Read more: Britney Spears and 14 Other Expensive Celebrity Child Support Settlements 

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