The process of divorce is exhausting, and can take a severe emotional, psychological, and physical toil on both persons undergoing the separation. The negative psychological and emotional effects of divorce can be long-lasting for those involved. Children however, are more prone to experience effects that last into their adolescent and adult lives. Kids from divorced families are more likely to struggle academically, experience behavioral issues at school, and engage in drug and alcohol use as teenagers. Children may also experience higher rates of teen pregnancy and have challenges in their own marriages.
The risks are high for kids. But the choices you make during your divorce can heavily influence the outcome of your child’s health and well-being. In fact, the two biggest influences are the amount of conflict between you and your spouse and the amount of support from friends and family.
The best way to help your children navigate their own well-being during divorce is to become an effective co-parenting partner with your ex-spouse. Together, you can take steps to ensure a healthy, successful future for your kids. Even if you aren’t married anymore, your children are still a part of both of you. They depend on both parents to put his or her needs first so that they can live a happy, thriving life.
What you can do to support your children:
- Inform kids about the divorce as a family. Plan what you will tell them, but don’t overwhelm them with information. Remember, the way you deliver your message will influence their reactions, so stay calm
- Ask and listen to your child’s fears and concerns. Tell them who will tuck them in at night, fix breakfast, and when they will see the other parent. Don’t give them false hope about reconciliation.
- Respect and support the child’s relationship with the other parent. Show by your actions and deeds that you won’t put them in the middle of you and your spouse. Never say unkind things about the other parent to the child.
- Reassure the child that it is not their fault.
- Expect and accept your child’s anger and sadness. Grief is normal for children with parents undergoing divorce. To help your child deal with grief, try to maintain familiar family rituals (Sunday dinner, watching a favorite TV show together, etc.).
- If you decide to date, go slow introducing your child. Keep the relationship platonic in front of the child.
If your child’s behavior changes from what is typical, pay close attention. Divorce is confusing and stressful for kids and they may not be able to handle it well. If your child’s behavior seems abnormal, or negative behaviors continue worsening, get in touch with one of our Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) at Counseling California for professional guidance and support.