It’s important to be extra cautious of your words and actions around your kids during and after your divorce. If you’re worried about how your kids are going to deal with your separation, take a look at how to reduce the effects of divorce on children.
Divorce is something that effects the entire family, especially your children. Even if you and your spouse know the separation is for the best, your kids aren’t likely to understand why mom and dad are splitting up. They may develop psychological or behavioral troubles, find it impossible to understand, or they may even blame themselves for the divorce.
Understanding the Effects of Divorce on Children
Divorce can impact children in a multitude of ways depending on their age and how they deal with challenging situations. No child wants their parents to separate, but some will be more understanding than others.
Young children are likely to be very confused about what the divorce means, and it will almost always be stressful for kids, no matter what age they are. Divorce can also increase the risk of psychological and behavioral problems, such as trouble with academic performance, anxiety, anger, and disobedience.
You play an essential role in how the divorce will effect your children. You can’t control everything, but if you and your spouse do a good job managing the divorce, your children are much more likely to accept the process.
Here are some tips for making divorce easier for children.
1. Reduce Conflict with Your Ex
The last thing your kids need to experience is you and your ex fighting with each other. If the two of you are in conflict, your kids may think it was because of something they did. The split is hard enough on them as it is, they don’t need to see their parents going at it. Don’t fight with your ex in front of your kids, and make sure you don’t criticize her in front of them when she isn’t around. The more conflict they see between their parents, the harder it is for them to deal with the stress of the divorce. Keep it civil, at least in front of their eyes.
2. Don’t Jump into a New Relationship
Your kids already have to wrap their head around their parents splitting up, they most likely won’t be too open to seeing their dad with another woman. Children may think you’re trying to replace their mom and feel confused about how to feel with another maternal figure in the picture. For young children specifically, warming up to their dad in a new relationship can be really tough, and can even have negative effects on their emotional well-being.
If you do start dating again, make sure you wait until it’s very serious before introducing her to your kids. You don’t want them stressing out or getting attached to her if it’s something really casual. And you want to make sure that whoever you’re dating is open to accepting your extended family, including your kids and ex. The less conflict and the less your children have to worry about, the better.
3. Explain the Situation
Most young children will feel confused about why their parents are getting a divorce, and what a divorce is. It’s important to make sure you explain the situation and what’s going to happen moving forward. You don’t need to divulge the details of the divorce, especially if the reasons are less than amicable. But you do need to explain what’s going to be occurring and what they can expect. They need to be reassured that their relationship with both parents will remain positive and equitable, and they need to know that they’re not the reason for the divorce. Explain to them how the time is going to be split up between each parent, depending on your arrangement, and why they may be spending more time at one house than the other (based on scheduling and proximity to school, etc.). To lessen the effects of divorce on children, it’s crucial for them to understand how life is going to change, and how it’s going to stay the same after the divorce.
4. Don’t Use Your Child as the Messenger
If you have something to relay to your ex, tell her yourself. Don’t get your children in the middle of it. First of all, they could forget, second of all, they don’t need the burden of passing on information from parent to parent. You should be communicating directly with your ex, not involving your kids. You also shouldn’t be asking your kids to tell you information about your ex’s personal life. This will make them uncomfortable and could break the trust between them and their mom. Don’t put them in that position.
Your conversations with your children should be focused around them. Talk about school, extra-curricular activities, their friends, etc. You should be focused 100% on them and give them your undivided attention.
5. Practice Effective Parenting
When it comes to reducing the effects of divorce on children, there are two major aspects you need to think about. First of all, you should constantly let them know how much they are loved. Even if they don’t reciprocate or aren’t open with their emotions, it’s important to make them feel loved at all times. Since divorce can be highly stressful and emotional, they need reassurance from you that they are and will always be loved.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you can’t let go of discipline. Some parents feel so much guilt for what their children is going through that they let them get away with anything and everything. This isn’t a good tactic and can do more harm than good. When kids are under stress, they may act out in a number of different ways and you may find discipline confusing, especially if you and your ex have different ways of parenting. But it’s important to keep your discipline strong. Your kids will respect you more in the long run and they won’t be as likely to act out. Playing good cop all the time can lead to more trouble than it’s worth.
6. Check in with Them About the Divorce
Don’t ignore the fact that the divorce happened, even if it’s tough for you to talk about with your kids. You should be checking in with them to see how they’re handling the separation. If they bottle up their feelings, you never know what kind of psychological or emotional toll it may be taking. Set time aside to ask them questions and listen to their concerns about the changes in their lives.
Some children benefit from counseling during a divorce, and if this is something your child needs, they need to know they have your support in talking to a counselor. If you don’t check in with them about the divorce, you risk them suppressing their feelings, which could lead to them acting out, or further feelings of stress and anxiety.
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