There is no question that parental divorce takes a toll on children. However, it can ultimately be in everyone’s best interests to end an unhappy, unfulfilling or unsafe marriage.
Thus, parents who are divorcing will want to understand how divorce affects children and what they can do to minimize the psychological fallout a child might experience.
How does divorce affect children?
Depending on your child’s age, they can experience a range of normal responses to their parents’ divorce. These emotions include:
- Difficulty with trusting others
Children of divorce could also be more likely to engage in risky situations, struggle in school and experiment with substances like drugs and alcohol.
Again, these are not unusual responses for children. Parental divorce can be a traumatic event over which children have no control.
Recognizing this reality is important; taking steps to make things easier for children is crucial.
Mitigating psychological effects on children
If you have children and are about to divorce (or separate), you can protect your child’s emotional and psychological welfare. For instance, you can:
Mediate your divorce. Taking a cooperative approach versus a combative one can minimize painful conflict. Further, it sets a good example for children that it is possible to work through differences respectfully, even during difficult times.
Ensure each parent has time with their children. Both parents should have time with their children after divorce unless that arrangement is not in a child’s best interests. Equal parenting can preserve the relationship between each parent and child, and it can provide a valuable sense of stability and support for the child.
Seek out support services. As much as you love your child, you may not be able to provide everything they need during a divorce. Getting them involved with services like counselling and support groups can be helpful.
Foster open communication. There is a lot about divorce and life after divorce that is scary, and children don’t understand. Talk to your children about this at an age-appropriate level; let them be honest with their emotions and ask questions. This open communication can play a vital role in how a child copes with the divorce. But DO NOT use this opportunity to in any way disparage the other parent.
A divorce is a life-changing event for parents and children alike. However, these tools can mitigate the adverse toll it can take now and well into the future.