While we often think of divorce as being difficult on the children, it doesn’t have to transform good children into potential criminals. There are steps parents can take to ensure the divorce has a minimal effect on the children, but it’s important for them to work together in order to reach that goal. The information in this article provides some tips parents can follow in order to ensure their divorce has as little effect on their children as possible.
The Impact of Divorce
There is no doubt that the way we divorce has a negative impact on children, and unfortunately, children who have gone through a difficult litigated divorce run a higher risk for the development of serious problems than children whose parents are still married. Professor Mavis Hetherington conducted a study that showed approximately twenty-five percent of children who have gone through a traumatic divorce suffer serious social, psychological, or emotional problems. This compares to approximately ten percent of children whose parents are still together.
Even though twenty-five percent of children whose parents are divorced suffer significant problems, another seventy-five percent adjust to the change just fine. Hetherington also discovered after a period of twenty years children from divorced and intact families didn’t look much different. Fortunately, there are steps divorced parents can take in order to offset any increased risks to their children.
Even though when children become adults the effects of divorce may diminish, there are many tough times they must endure before that time. The most difficult time is the first two years after the divorce, a period that often results in abnormal behavior, decrease in the mental and physical health of the children, and mood swings. For some children these effects may continue beyond the two year period.
Research has shown that children of divorce may suffer from a variety of different problems that include:
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty getting along with other children, siblings, and even his or her parents
- Adolescent children are more likely to become involved with drugs, engage in sexual activity at a young age, and become involved in delinquent behavior
- May have difficulty becoming intimate or developing independence during both adolescence and early adulthood
- Have more academic struggles than children of parents who are not divorced
The behavior of the parents results in the ugliest and worst aspect of the reality that follows the divorce as opposed to the behavior of the children.
Many children see only one good thing about the divorce: the removal of the conflict that previously existed between his or her parents. When a marriage filled with arguments and conflicts leads to more of the same during the divorce and even post-divorce, the children do not see the consolation that might otherwise occur. Any type of continuous conflict whether the parents are married or divorced has the potential to cause devastation to the children.
How the Parents Can Help
The effects of divorce are different for each child. Factors that include gender, and level of maturity determine an individual child’s ability to cope with the situation. The most important factors in the ability of the children to adjust are the child’s post-divorce quality of life and the type of relationship the children maintain between both parents. Some of the things a parent can do to minimize the effects of divorce on a child include the following:
Make sure your child has an adequate support system
It’s essential for both parents to provide a child with full emotional support. It’s essential to keep your eyes open for any continuous behaviors or attitudes that may be indicative the child needs professional help. A therapist or counselor has the training and experience necessary to provide the help your child needs to handle the variety of emotions that divorce causes.
Learn how to work respectfully with your ex in the co-parenting process
When a marriage ends it very rarely does so in a friendly manner. However, projecting anger toward your ex can have a devastating effect on a child. You can maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship even if you don’t like your ex by simply putting personal feelings aside and working toward what should be a common objective: raising children that are healthy and well-adjusted.
Maintain an active and healthy lifestyle
While it can be tempting to pig out on “comfort food” when you are stressed, it is much better for your child if you provide nutritious food and encourage exercise. This will keep him or her healthy both physically and emotionally.
Encourage the father to remain involved as much as possible
Quite often divorced women complain about their ex’s lack of interest in spending time with the children, but women are more in control of this than they know. The quality of the child’s relationship with the mother is the best indicator of what kind of involvement the child has with his or her father. When a woman chooses to consciously interact with her ex in a respectful manner, there is a greater chance the children can have a healthy and meaningful relationship with their father.
Set healthy boundaries when interacting with your children
After a divorce parents will frequently lean on their children as sources of additional support. This puts an enormous responsibility on a child and can result in the parents making the child a confidant. Instead of depending on your child to fulfill your need for support, look for other sources and allow the child to be a child.
Do not expect your child to choose sides
Allow your child to remain neutral when it comes to the other parent. Never ask him or her to be a spy for you. It’s important to avoid making any negative remarks about your ex where the children can hear. You need to be careful of even minor attitudes or actions that might be seen by the child as pressure to choose loyalties.
The important thing in the end is to provide the most stable environment possible and ensure your child has a healthy and happy post-divorce relationship with both parents.