IT IS well known that many children in contentious divorces are caught in the crossfire between their parents. To minimize the negative effects on children, psychologists offer some general guidelines for parents to follow:

- Coexist peacefully with your former spouse. This involves putting aside your differences for the sake of the children and supporting each other in the continuing roles as parents. Both parents should encourage each other to maintain contact with the children.

- Do not argue in front of your children.

- Children need consistency in their lives. Whenever possible, keep the same daily routines. If you share custody, both spouses should agree on the same household routines (bedtime, mealtime, discipline, etc.).

- Do not use your children for emotional support during your divorce. Connect with adult friends and relatives for support.

- Wait until your children are mostly healed from the divorce before you begin dating.

For more information on this subject, go to http://www.kidtips.com. Click on "Divorce: Putting the Children First."

Protect kids from

parental conflict

When my ex-husband and I were going through a divorce, we realized that we couldn't control our tempers when one of us started an argument. Knowing this was bad for our children, we made a deal to communicate only via e-mail if the issue was sensitive or potentially volatile. Written communication lets you cool off before responding. There were times when I almost pounded my keyboard, but my kids never knew about the behind-the-scenes drama with their dad.

— Anonymous

Taking responsibility for your actions

When you discipline your children, always explain that the discipline is a consequence of their actions. Children often blame their parents and teachers for their discipline instead of admitting that they chose to do something wrong. It's common for children to say something like, "You took away my bike!" You respond by saying, "No, you caused this by not taking care of it." It all amounts to their choices — not yours. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a very important concept to learn.

— Richard Nahm, Brentwood

Cold pacifier

For quick relief of teething pain, offer your child a pacifier that has been kept in the refrigerator or freezer.

— S.C.C., Phoenix

Chore stickers earn prizes

My 6-year-old daughter loves earning daily stickers, which she cashes in for her weekly allowance. She can earn two stickers each day — one for completing a few simple morning chores (brushing her teeth, getting dressed, making her bed, etc.) and another for completing her evening bedtime routine (brushing her teeth, putting on pj's, packing her school backpack, etc.). Each sticker is worth 50 cents, so she can earn a maximum of $7 each week.

— T.L. Martinez, Fremont

Don't overreact

In dealing with my teenage daughter, I have found it helpful to be careful not to overreact or show panic or shock in response to anything she says, especially when she is talking about a concern or problem. I freely offer my advice and share my feelings about certain issues, but I try to remain calm. I believe that when parents overreact to something their teens tell them, there's a good chance they won't hear too many more concerns and problems that their children might be dealing with. The teens will probably clam up or share their concerns with someone else — probably their friends.

— N.L.C., Chapel Hill, N.C.

Share your favorite parenting tip. E-mail Tom at tom@kidtips.com, call (925) 461-6080 (voice/fax message) or write to Kid Tips, 888 Seventh Ave., NewYork, NY 10019. Tom McMahon is a nationally syndicated columnist, Ohlone College professor of psychology and author of the books Kid Tips and TeenTips. Visit his Web site at http://www.kidtips.com.