This is the first in a series of articles on Parenting Considerations during divorce. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight parenting considerations from birth through 18 years of age.
Parenting is the source from which a child’s sense of self derives. A parent’s own life experiences profoundly effects their influences on their children, particularly during a divorce.
The following has been adapted from The Judge’s Guide, published by the American Bar Association
Parenting an infant can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Often sleep deprived, parents must still respond to the infant’s demands in a consistently loving way, while also attending to the outside pressures of work, household, and other family responsibilities.
The stress associated with divorce can make this time even more chaotic and unsettling. Without adequate support, parents may find themselves in a vicious cycle: the infant may respond to the stress with more frequent, unpredictable demands, while the parents may be too depleted to respond to these demands in a predictable, patient way. If there are transitions involved, however, it is critical that co-parenting skills and communication skills are developed and enhanced.
It is also important for parents of children in this age group to be screened for any other potential parenting impairment, such as domestic violence, mental illness, or substance abuse, given the vulnerability of an infant.
The following needs to be considered in divorce and dissolution cases involving children from birth to the age of 18 months:
- How did each parent react to the pregnancy?
- What kind of prenatal care and nurturing took place?
- How does the parent respond to the infant’s demands for predictability in eating, sleeping, and bathing?
- If not the daily caregiver, how does the parent remain involved, such as in bedtime rituals, bathing, and feeding, yet avoid overstimulating the infant?
- Does the parent provide a safe and stimulating environment in which the infant can master new skills and experience a sense of competence?
- What child-proofing measures were taken in each home to allow the child to safely explore?
- Does the parent seem aware and excited about the infant’s growth and acquisition of new skills?
- How is the parent’s physical and psychological health, and what support system does he or she have?
- How many caretakers are involved with the infant and what criteria were used in their selection?
- Has the parent attended a research-based parenting skills training program?
- If a parent is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder or psychiatric disorder, has he or she sought treatment?
- If so, what has been the outcome of the treatment?
- Does the infant suffer from any particular medical or mental health problems?
- If so, how does each parent respond and adapt to the infant’s special needs?
- How does each parent support the child’s relationship with the other parent?