Divorce affects children greatly. Separation of their parents can lead to anger, anxiety, and even depression. These are normal reactions to the breakdown of their secure image of a family. Divorce will always be hard, but the more tension and conflict the children have to witness and be subjected to prior to the actual separation, the harder it will be for them to adjust. Grieving by parents and children is expected and can be eased by acknowledging their feelings and offering reassurance and constant love and support. Some factors that need to be considered to determine how well a child will cope during divorce are the child’s relationship with the parents prior to separation, the amount of conflict they witnessed, and the parents’ capacity to acknowledge and support their needs.
A few things that parents can do to help make the process easier for their children are:
- Children need and want their parents to be there for them and to stay involved in their lives. They want an ongoing and stable relationship with their parents. Otherwise, they may feel unwanted or unloved. Children need their parents to guide them, teach them what is important in life, and help solve their growing pains and problems.
- Parents should avoid fighting in front of their kids. Children are apt to feel guilty and responsible, thinking it’s their fault that their parents are arguing and separating. Parents need to explain and clarify to their children that it’s not the children’s fault and that both parents still love their children.
- Children should not be forced to pick sides. Because of marital conflict, children are at a loss as to whom to go to and spend time with, without feeling disloyal to either parent. They shouldn’t feel guilty if they talk to one parent more than the other. They shouldn’t be forced to take sides and should be given all freedom to express their love for both parents. Also, parents should never speak negatively about the other parent in front of the children.
Maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship with your spouse for the sake of your children’s welfare will benefit you as well. It will give you peace and bolster your sense of stability and independence, knowing the burden of taking care of your children and providing the love and support that they need does not rest solely on your shoulders. A strong co-parenting relationship will benefit the family’s transition post-divorce. The cooperation and open communication between parents to raise and support their children will maintain the children as a top priority. This will make the transition smoother and be a source of deep comfort for everyone.