Going through a divorce is never pleasant. It is a painful process those involved and unfortunately, many divorcing families include children. Parents frequently worry about the effects of the divorce on their children, but sometimes the feelings, needs and concerns of children take a backseat as parents become preoccupied with their own problems and emotional trauma. Parents must remember that a divorce equally impacts their children and as parents they continue to be the most important people in their child’s life.
Divorce may be a source of devastation or relief for a parent, but divorce is most always a confusing, and frightening time that threatens a child’s sense of security. Sometimes parents are so hurt or overwhelmed by a divorce that they rely on their child for comfort, reassurance and direction. Unless children are told what is happening, how they are involved or not involved, and what is going to happen to them, they often will misinterpret the divorce. Misinterpretations can include the child/children believing that they are the source of conflict between their parents or the cause of the divorce. Many children assume the responsibility for reuniting their parents, often through acting out behaviors.
Much of the negative impact that a divorce has on children can be avoided by keeping them informed in an open and honest manner. Without open communication and accurate information, children will create their own answers to questions that they have about the divorce. Care, attention and communication can help children deal constructively with the divorce and issues related to it.
Parents should learn to recognize signs of distress in their children. Young children may display changes in behavior, such as becoming aggressive and uncooperative or they may withdraw from social contact. Older children may experience deep sadness and a sense of loss. Schoolwork may suffer, acting out behavior problems may develop and substance abuse may develop. As teenagers and adults, children of divorce often have trouble with their own relationships, and experience problems with self-esteem and anxiety.
By handling a divorce with the best interest of the child in mind, the child will learn the difficult situations can be resolved in a caring, constructive manner. Children do best if they know that their mother and father are still their parents and remain involved with them even though the marriage is over. Prepare children for the changes that will take place. Take every opportunity to assure children that the relationships with other important adults in their lives will remain the same. Make every effort to avoid long custody dispute.
It takes time for children to adjust to a divorce. Allow them the work through their loss of the family as it was before the divorce. If children show signs of distress, of not being able to adjust to the changes in their life parents might want to seek help from their family physician or pediatrician. Therapy can help divorcing parents, and children of divorce deal with the strain of divorce.