Children of divorced parents are often the most affected victims of the collateral damage arising from the family breakup. Many parents are so overwhelmed by the process of divorce they sometimes fail to recognize that the children get overwhelmed too. Young children don’t understand what is going on in a divorce and they get confused by the sudden and dramatic changes in their once-normal daily lives. At the critical time of divorce when parents are most needed by their children, many parents have the least time to give to their children. The parents may be too busy dealing with the divorce to devote much time to the kids, but that does not change the fact that the parents are still the most important people in world in their kid’s eyes.
Children often misinterpret the whole divorce event and may believe that they are somehow responsible for their parent’s breakup. The kids will draw their own conclusions if the parents don’t sit down and explain what is going on and what changes are coming that will involve the children and the whole family. Sometimes the kids will attempt to “repair” the marriage themselves, and take responsibility for their parent’s lack of happiness. The result can be devastating when children take action based on wrong information and incomplete facts. Life-long health problems, behavior problems and even mental problems can develop in children who suffer extreme trauma in a divorce.
Even though divorce can be a difficult topic to discuss with children, communication is an essential tool in combating the negative effects of the experience. Children respond best if they know the facts and are assured that they will still have two parents even though they will not be living together anymore. They need to know the divorce is not their fault and reassured that they will still be loved and cared for when it is over. Forcing a child to take sides and choose between parents in a divorce is always a bad idea and will make the situation more traumatic.
Kids stressed out by divorce can exhibit anger and aggressive behavior or withdraw into sadness. They can lose interest in school and get into trouble. Later in life they may experience relationship problems of their own. If the children are supported at this critical time they can learn to how to deal with their parent’s disputes and go back to being normal kids. Parental commitment is critically important for children of divorce.
Tips for Divorcing Parents
- Let the kids be kids and leave them out of the adult decision making process.
- Be a good listener and pay attention to what your children have to say.
- Tell the children the divorce is not their fault.
- Don’t make the children take sides and choose between parents.
- Keep the kids out of communication between parents, don’t use them as messengers.
- Don’t fight with your spouse in front of the children in person or on the phone.
- Reassure children that they are loved and will be cared for.
- Don’t talk about your spouse’s faults or misdeeds with the children.
- Minimize the changes by maintaining your normal schedules, routines and lifestyle.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Get outside help if it is needed.