How to Help Your Child Cope with Divorce
During the time of divorce or separation, you must keep in mind you and your spouse are the most important elements of your child's life. During this period, it is paramount to be mindful of their presence, and avoid physical or emotional violence toward each other. Although your feelings have changed, theirs likely has not.
Divorce and separation have a huge impact on children, making it the most stressful and integral part of this process. Remember, the problems you and your spouse are having are between you and your spouse only. Do not bring the children into a dispute.
Research on Children and Divorce
There is a myth that circulates individuals going through a divorce, “since the parents are unhappy, the kids are unhappy. Divorce will be good for everyone.” There is over 30 years of research, which points to the unwanted truth: kids suffer when parents split up.
While it is true every child who goes through divorce is affected differently there are clear increases in negative behaviors. The following is what has been found to be areas children suffer:
- Academically due to Disruptive Behavior
- Decreased likelihood of High School Graduation
- Increased likelihood of Juvenile Incarceration
- Increased likelihood of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Teens
- Physiological Distress
- Emotional Scars of Divorce leading to Increased likelihood of Child being Divorced as an Adult
For more information on how divorce affects children review Judith Wallerstien's research.
Helping with Post-Divorce Child Emotions
Sitting down with the children and your spouse right away once a decision to divorce or separate has been made is very important. Children know when something is going on, especially with their parents. Delaying this inevitability will only make it harder for them to focus on what they need to be concentrating on, like school and being a kid.
A major point of conversation when it comes to younger children is letting them know that it is not their fault, and other than the living arrangements, nothing will change. It is also extremely important that you and your spouse approach the conversation together to help put them at ease. This is a difficult time for everyone involved, but it is especially difficult for the children involved. By taking these steps right from the start, it will be an easier transition into the separate living stage. Overall, it will assist in the post-divorce process by meeting these challenges head-on.
Child Emotions with New Relationships
New relationships also present challenges with the children. Giving them appropriate time to deal with not having their other parent in the house is very important. Giving them space to come to grips with a new relationship is equally important.
You do not have to put a new relationship to a vote, but giving children the respect of open communication is the key to development and progress. Listening to their concerns or frustrations may be in order for them to learn how to express themselves and not bottle-up their emotions.
Let them warm up to this new interest in their own time, but remind them that they must always remain respectful of your decisions and toward the person involved.
Resources That Will Help
There are many resources at your disposal when assisting your child with coping with a separation or divorce. Some very basic routes you may take are telling those that are close to your child, such as babysitters, teachers, or daycare providers. They play an important part of your child's life and development. They can help alleviate any stress or frustrations your child may feel when not in the home.
If it is in your budget seek counseling for your child so they can cope with a third party and avoid suffering debilitating symptoms of the divorce. Symptoms such as regression in learned or physical skills, basic eating habits like a loss of appetite, seclusion, or disciplinary issues. Events of severe outbursts or crying, physical ailments such as chronic illness or headaches, or the inability to accept the current situation.
Further, do not pass up the option of a good book. There are many books that have been written by doctors and psychologists about how to deal with your child concerning these changes. They can at least help you to understand what your child may be feeling, and give you options as how to approach dealing with these delicate issues.
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