If your family finds itself in the middle of a divorce, one of the most difficult things you will likely have to face is learning how to protect your children during this difficult season. Children are often unintended victims of divorce, and it’s important to limit the effects of litigation on their lives. Here are some ways you can protect your children during this stressful time:

Avoid putting your children in the middle of your divorce.

Don’t criticize your former spouse in front of your children. Even young children understand that they are “part mom” and “part dad” and negative talk about their mother or father can hurt their self-esteem. Also, avoid using your children as messengers or quizzing them about your ex-spouse. Let your children be children and keep them away from your divorce as much as possible. Don’t fight in front of your children or over the phone. Keep arguments civil and keep them out of earshot of your kids.

Encourage your children at every opportunity.

Children often blame themselves for their parents’ issues. Be sure to remind your children that both of their parents love them and that the divorce is about you, not them. Keep your conversations light and positive. Try to keep everything as normal and consistent as possible. Maintain your routines and schedule to help your children feel more comfortable in their new normal. Allow your children to ask you questions and answer them honestly, but compassionately. Keep the conversation open so that your children feel comfortable talking about things that scare and upset them.

Take care of yourself.

One of the best ways you can help your children during a divorce is to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and continue to exercise. Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with family and friends in your support network. It may be helpful to talk to a therapist or support group to help you deal emotionally with your divorce. Your children need you now more than ever. When you feel good, you will be better able to take care of them.

Above all, remember that you are a good parent. Your children love you and, with a little bit of work, you all can still maintain healthy relationships, even after a divorce.