Three ways to make divorce easier on the kids
Divorce is rarely easy, especially for children. Parents sometimes get so caught up in their own emotions and worries that they inadvertently make the process more difficult than it needs to be for their kids. Fortunately, research has shown that there are steps parents can take to help minimize the emotional risks for children during divorce.
Risk factors may be within parents’ control
There are typically three main factors that affect how children experience divorce, according to psychologist JoAnne Pedro-Carroll of the Children of Divorce Intervention Program. These include:
- The degree and duration of any hostile conflict between the parents.
- The child’s relationship with each parent.
- The quality of parenting the child receives over time.
Although every family is different, as is every divorce, keeping these factors in mind may help parents reduce the negative impact of divorce on their children.
Minimizing hostility and conflict
Generally speaking, kids are more able to cope with divorce when hostile conflict is kept to a minimum. Thus, parents can help make the divorce process easier on their children by making an effort to interact calmly and respectfully with one another, particularly when children are present or within earshot, and by taking care not to speak disparagingly of one another in front of the kids.
Focusing on strong parent-child relationships
Just as kids are affected by their parents’ interactions with one another, they are also sensitive to their own relationships with each parent – especially during divorce. Often, when parents divorce, a child may feel stuck in the middle or fear that he or she will have to choose sides. Likewise, children may fear that their relationships with either parent may suffer as a result of the divorce.
To help assuage these fears, it is important for parents to focus on maintaining strong relationships with their children during divorce. By helping to ensure that children feel loved and supported throughout the divorce process, parents can alleviate much of the stress and worry that may contribute to an increased risk of long-term negative consequences.
Of course, divorce is often an overwhelming and stressful time for parents, too, which can make the demands of parenting even more challenging. However, during and after divorce, it is especially important to remain focused on effective parenting. This means not only providing a child with love and support, but also with consistent structure, discipline and boundaries. This helps maintain a sense of stability and predictability that can help children feel more secure during divorce.
If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a parent during divorce, be sure to speak with an experienced divorce and family law attorney in your area.