Divorce proceedings are often so emotionally stressful that parents have a hard time balancing their needs with the needs of their children. It is very easy for adults to let their feelings influence how they behave, often resulting in negative consequences for the entire family.
As difficult as divorce can be for the parents who choose to end their marriage, it can be even more difficult for children. Their entire family is about to change, which will be quite stressful for them to experience. It is common for children to have mental health challenges when their parents divorce, which may include changes in personality, withdrawal from social activity and a reduction in school performance.
How might parents work to minimize the negative impact that their divorce may have on their children?
Present a united front
From the first moment that parents discuss their divorce with their children, how they speak and behave will influence the children. Therefore, working together to give the children the information they need will be important. If possible, there should be a family sit-down conversation where parents address the change in their relationship and then affirm that the divorce does not undermine the love either parent has for the children and that the decision is not the fault of the children. After that initial conversation, parents will need to continue to work together as much as possible for the benefit of the children.
Keep the schedule and expectations predictable
The more changes there are to the children’s daily schedule and lifestyle, the more challenging it will be for them to adjust to the new family circumstances. Adults who try to maintain the same daily schedule and household rules during the divorce will often find that their children have an easier time acclimating to the new circumstances. Parents may need to discuss matters like the daily schedule and disciplinary expectations with one another so that they both maintain and enforce the same expectations.
Take care of the adults’ stress
Parents who don’t have an outlet for negative emotions are likely to overreact toward their children or to display their distress in a way that will impact their children. Having a healthy outlet, which might include counseling services or a support group, can give someone a place to process their emotions so that they can be more present with their children.
Recognizing that divorce will be stressful for children may help adults make choices that will reduce how difficult the divorce process ultimately ends up being for all who are affected.