One of the most common questions parents have when contemplating divorce is “How can I make this divorce as easy as possible on my children?” Well, anyone who has gone through a divorce can tell you that it’s usually not easy on anyone, the parents or the children!
My parents divorced when I was eight years old, and thirty(ish) years later that event is still one of the defining moments of my life. As a child I viewed their divorce as a definite negative, but over time I have come to appreciate the many positives that have come my way as a direct result.
When parents divorce, research has shown that some children can experience difficulties with anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotional and behavioral issues. Some children experience these symptoms for a brief duration, while others can continue to have adjustment problems for months or even years following a divorce.
Researchers have also found that some children do not exhibit measurable emotional or behavioral problems following a divorce, and some kids may even show improvements after a divorce (especially those who come from homes that were considered “high-conflict” before the divorce).
So, what’s my point you may ask? That after a divorce kids can either stay the same, get worse, or get better? That’s not rocket science. In fact, that’s just the way kids are in general. Different. Every child is different, and how they react to a divorce (or any other difficult circumstance) depends on a lot of things. Their personality, their genetic makeup, their birth order, their temperament, their life history, etc., etc., etc. can all contribute to how they react.
But another thing that helps make divorce easier (or harder) on a child is the behavior of the parents. Parents have the ability to work towards making their divorce as painless as possible on their kids. But a parent’s behavior can also make divorce pretty painful. Here are a few don’ts that you can use to ease the burden of divorce on your children:
- Don’t fight with your ex-spouse in front of your kids.
- Don’t talk badly about your ex-spouse in front of your children.
- Don’t ask your kids to pick sides.
- Don’t expect your children to be your social support or therapist.
For more detailed tips like these, check out my most favorite book for parents going through a divorce, Making Divorce Easier on Your Child: 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust. Your children will thank you for it, and you’ll feel more assured that you’re helping your child best handle this difficult time in both of your lives.