As previous blogs have explored, the impact of divorce on children can often have a severe and lasting effect. There are certain tips that parents can follow to try to help make the transition from whole family unit to separate households as smooth as possible. One thing to remember is that while there may be bumps along the way, continuing to communicate with the children is key, along with making sure children’s fears and concerns are heard.
1. Assure children that they did not cause the divorce
Often children, especially younger children, can feel that they have done something wrong or created an issue that led to divorce1. Using age appropriate language, explaining that the child is not at fault, and that both parents still love them may help ease the child’s worries.
2. Do not use the child as a “middle-person” for communication.
It can be easy to slip into the habit of asking your child to remind the other parent of a soccer game or school pictures, but this often creates tension and pressure on the child2. Keep adult conversations between the parents, and encourage whatever form of communication works best for the parents-email, phone calls, texts. Also, ask children how their parenting time was with the other parent, but do not pry for details about topics such as money spent or who all was present.
3. Have a neutral outlet for your child.
Sometimes a therapist is helpful in allowing your children to explore their emotions, be it fear, anger, or otherwise, as a neutral party. Oftentimes with divorce, children feel they are taking sides, and having a neutral party can let the child express themselves without fear of hurting or angering one or both parents. Maybe, a therapist is not necessary but there is a support group at school or just a friend that the child can vent to. Encouraging these relationships can help your child cope with their emotions, without feeling pressured or self-conscious about their feelings.
4. Do your best to effectively co-parent.
Certainly, there are often bad feelings between parties who have divorced, but it can be even more confusing for children when different parents have different rules, bedtimes, homework routines, etc. If possible, try to communicate and be on the same page. This may make the transition from household to household easier for all. Also, if practical and possible, encourage the other parent to attend activities, events, practices, etc3. This allows for both parents to remain actively involved, and not be a one parent event.
Understanding the impact of divorce on children, long and short term, can help parents support their children through this upheaval, and allow the best environment for their children during a difficult time. We hope that this series has been helpful in exploring potential problems and tips for family during divorce.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.
- See Berk, Laura, Infants, Children, and Adolescents, Sixth Edition, Pearson, p.510 (2008).
- See Indy’s Child, October, 2013, Coping with Divorce
- See Boyd, Denise and Helen Bee, Lifespan Development, Taken from Lifespan Development, Fourth Edition, Custom Publishing, p.212 (2006).