July has been designated National Child-Centered Divorce Month. This is a time for parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, clergy and other professionals to focus on the importance of putting children’s needs first and foremost when divorce or separation is pending.

Most of the negative consequences of divorce result from one or both parents making choices that are not in the best interest of their children. Frequently, parents are so caught up in their own emotional drama — in anger, resentment, frustration and sometimes outright hatred of their former spouse — that they make decisions based on

hurting, spiting or getting even. Too often, innocent children are caught up in a vicious tug of war, whether it be physical or emotional. They are asked to keep or share secrets, relay messages, make choices about who they like best, and sometimes are even kept from contact with the other parent. Parents who do this are giving little thought as to how their behavior affects their child’s self-esteem, security and long-term view of the world.

Caught in situations in which they cannot safely confide in their parents, these children are forced to “grow up” far too soon. Some may recede into themselves and put up a wall that mistrusts “outsiders.” Others may act out and become bullies, gang members, or other behavior challenges. Still others may become depressed or angry and lose the joyful innocence of childhood.

Regardless of how they handle parental dysfunction during and after the divorce process, these children all deserve better. They deserve to know that none of this is their fault. They deserve to know that both Mom and Dad still love them — and always will. They deserve to know that, despite the changes in their life, they will still be okay. Mom and Dad are handling things with their children’s best interest at heart. Putting them first. Remembering that regardless of divorce, they will always be the parents of these precious children — and should put that awareness above all else.

I encourage professionals who counsel divorcing families to celebrate National Child-Centered Divorce Month by writing articles, offering seminars, sending press releases and reaching out in their communities with a strong message. Spread the word that when parents divorce, your children need you more than ever. Don’t let them down.

Rosalind Sedacca’s new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook(tm) Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! is now available online at //www.howdoitellthekids.com. She also offers a complimentary ezine at her website, //www.childcentereddivorce.com for families experiencing divorce or separation. Rosalind can be reached at [email protected].