A divorce is a significant loss to many spouses. However, even more so divorces can affect the well-being, psychological health, and emotional development of the children involved. Helping a child through divorce is essential. Parents may help in the following ways:
Parent/Parent vs. Parent/Child Relationships
Always separate the child’s relationship with the parent from the relationship between the parents. Anger at the other parent has nothing to do with the child.
Remind the child that it’s not their fault. Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child.
On a related note, parents should continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce. A child still needs this from both parents, especially after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.
Keep Conflict to a Minimum
Parental conflict during and after a divorce may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for kids. In many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents. These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent. This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child. Helping children in a divorce can sometimes mean knowing when to stay silent.
Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation. Mediation, coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial.
This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment. It can make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent. Reasonably settling a divorce case can help avoid conflict down the road.
Helping a Child Through Divorce: Stand United
Parenting doesn’t end with the divorce. In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit. They are “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”.
Children may face horrible choices if placed in a situation in which they are keenly aware of the parental discord. The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often. Children should never have to make those choices. Helping children in a divorce involves working with the other parent.
Communicate Openly & Directly with each other
During a divorce parents should negotiate with each other how they will resolve parental disputes in the future. Dispute resolution could be direct negotiation or mediation. Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to Court is ideally a last resort for parents after a divorce.
In addition, communication should be direct whenever possible, with the exception of domestic abuse situations. Children should not be used as messengers between the parents.
Kids also should not be involved, even indirectly or incidentally, with communication between parents involving custody, parenting time, or child support issues. Children hear significantly more than parents sometimes realize.
In sum, parents never stop being a parent to their children. A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.
For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page. If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page. For Court rules, please click here.