Divorce is hard on families, but hardest on children.
This is why it’s important for parents to work on supporting the needs of children during a divorce. Each child is different, so it is up to the parents to be empathetic to the child as they transition from living in a household where the family was whole, from the child’s perspective, to living in separate households during divorce. While divorce is painful for adults, too, it’s important for parents to focus on offering their children that empathy and not expecting children to be empathetic towards them.
For example, some parents may be inclined to discuss their situation during a divorce with their children. But this can have negative consequences. Children must be kept out of the divorce process. That process is for adults, who must make important decisions during the divorce. There is evidence of divorce’s impact on children, including long-term health issues and drug problems. In addition, some children experience educational difficulties. The impact can vary, depending on the child.
The goal for parents is to keep children out of the divorce process so they can limit the impact as much as possible in an already difficult situation. Parents should work during and after the divorce to ensure that the child remains healthy and is impacted as little as possible by the divorce. Parents should be watching for behavioral changes in children, especially younger children. These can include new tantrums or nightmares that previously were not part of the child’s behavior.
This is a clear sign of the negative impacts of a divorce on children. It’s possible that behavior might be present when the child is with one parent and not the other. These issues are signs the child is trying to figure out how to cope with the situation. Children can’t always express these difficult feelings, so these behaviors are a way for them to process the situation. At times, parents may be inclined to blame each other for these changes, even claim that the child is being abused during the divorce process, because these changes aren’t exhibited by the child to both parents. But the child is simply trying to figure out how to cope in a difficult situation.
Parents should consider seeking support for the child from a specialist who can help them navigate this difficult time. It’s particularly useful in the collaborative divorce process, which relies on a team that can be assembled to help the family during this difficult transition. Both collaborative divorce and mediation are informal processes that give families flexibility to work through the divorce process at a comfortable speed. The process can be adjusted to meet the needs of the children and give the child specialist time to help the child through the process.
Divorce is difficult, but its impact on children can be mitigated by parents who are focused on what’s best for them.