One of the biggest concerns that people voice when contemplating a divorce is that they worry about how it will affect their children. It is common knowledge that divorce can lead to depression, poor academic performance and social withdrawal for the children in a family. Parents often worry that pursuing their own health and happiness could come at their children’s expense.
Thankfully, those who pursue the divorce process mindfully are often able to mitigate the most concerning ways that divorce can affect children. By proactively seeking to meet the needs of their children, parents can help them thrive during the divorce process and afterward. Kids generally need the following kinds of support when their parents divorce.
Predictability and structure
One of the reasons divorce is so hard on children is that it destabilizes their environment. Their sense of family, their daily routine and even their social circle can change abruptly. Parents can minimize how stressful the transition is for the children in the family by keeping the schedule consistent, trying to keep the children in the same general area and making sure that the rules are the same at both houses. When children know what is expected of them and what every day will bring, they will be less likely to act out or struggle to meet expectations.
A safe space for processing
A child’s age and the overall family dynamic will influence exactly what kind of support they need. However, they will inevitably have powerful emotions about the divorce and in need to process those feelings. For some children, the right space could be counseling sessions or a support group. Other children might benefit from connecting with their cousins or other extended family members who they know love them but do not have direct involvement in the situation. Ensuring that children have some place to speak about their feelings without judgment will be very important for helping them heal.
A buffer from parental conflict
One of the hardest parts of witnessing parents getting a divorce is how children often feel like they are in the middle of the conflict. They may hear the parents fighting or have to listen to them listing off the failings of the other adults in the family. Parents should try their best to avoid conflict in front of the children and to also remain as positive about their co-parents as possible. When children understand that the parents want to work cooperatively and that they both still love the children, they may not feel as torn about the changing family circumstances and their role in the new family unit.
Recognizing and effectively meeting the needs of children during a divorce can potentially reduce how difficult the process is for them.