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Steps you can take to help your child cope with divorce

Even though divorce is difficult for families, staying together for the children's sake may not be the best decision.

When a marriage ends, many parents wonder, “Should we stay together for the sake of the kids?” In some cases, the marriage is too broken, and divorce is sadly the only option.

While all parents may be concerned about various issues, ranging from the future of their living situation to the uncertainty of the custody agreement, they may be most concerned about how their children will cope with the divorce.

The good news is that parents can take precautions to minimise the psychological impact of divorce on their children. A few supportive parenting techniques can go a long way toward assisting children in adjusting to the changes brought about by divorce.

Why is the first year after divorce the most difficult?

Research has indicated that children struggle the most during the first year or two after their parents’ divorce. During this time, children are more prone to feel anger, sadness, disappointment, rage, anxiety, and shock. However, over time most children become accustomed to changes in their regular routines and become at ease with their living circumstances.

Divorce’s emotional impact on children

Divorce causes emotional anguish for the entire family, but it can be especially frightening, confused, and upsetting for children.

  • Young children frequently struggle to comprehend why they must go between two homes. They may be concerned that if their parents can stop loving one other, their parents will eventually stop loving them.
  • Children in primary school may be concerned that the divorce is their fault. They may believe they have done something wrong and caused the divorce.
  • Teenagers may feel enraged by a divorce and the changes it brings. They may blame one or both parents for the marriage’s breakdown, or they may hate one or both parents for the instability in the home.
  • In extreme cases, a child may be relieved by the divorce if it means fewer disputes and less stress.
  • Divorce typically results in children losing regular contact with one parent, most often the father. Reduced communication and connection impact the parent-child bond, and according to a 2014 study, many children feel less attached to their fathers following divorce.
  • Divorce also impacts a child’s connection with the custodial parent, who is usually the mother. Primary caregivers frequently report higher levels of stress due to single parenting.
  • According to a 2013 study, mothers are generally less supportive and affectionate following divorce. Furthermore, their discipline becomes less consistent and effective.
  • For some children, parental separation isn’t the most challenging part of their lives. The surrounding stressors, instead, are what make divorce the most difficult. Changing schools, moving to a new house, and living with a single parent who is stressed are just a few additional pressures that make divorce difficult.
  • Financial difficulties are also prevalent after a divorce. Many families are forced to downsize or relocate, and they frequently have fewer material resources.

A word on blended families

According to the Pew Research Center, around 40% of new marriages include one spouse who had previously been married, and 20% of new marriages include both spouses who had previously been married. As a result, children are subjected to continual shifts in their family dynamics.

Another significant change is the addition of a stepparent and stepsiblings. And in many cases, both parents remarry, which brings about a slew of changes for the children.

Did you know? Second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages. Many children have been through multiple separations and divorces throughout the years.

Helping children adjust during and after divorce

Here are seven techniques for reducing the psychological impact of divorce on children:

  1. Avoid putting children in the middle of a conflict: It is not appropriate to ask children to choose which parent they prefer or to offer them messages to send to other parents. Children who are caught in the middle are more prone to suffer from despair and anxiety.
  2. Maintain a positive relationship with your ex: Positive communication, parental warmth, and low conflict levels may aid children’s adjustment to divorce. Following a divorce, a solid parent-child relationship has been found to assist children to develop improved self-esteem and academic success.
  3. Maintain consistent discipline: Establish age-appropriate norms and enforce consequences when necessary. A 2011 study found that effective discipline after divorce reduced delinquency and increased academic performance.
  4. Help your children feel empowered: Children who mistrust their ability to cope with change and those who perceive themselves as helpless victims are more likely to develop mental health issues. Teach your child that, while divorce is terrible, they are strong enough to deal with it.
  5. Teach your children coping strategies: Children who use active coping methods, such as problem-solving and cognitive restructuring, fare better in divorce. Teach your child healthy ways to control his thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
  6. Make your children feel safe: Anxiety can be exacerbated by fears of abandonment and worry about the future. However, making your child feel loved, safe, and secure helps minimize clinginess while also lowering the chance of mental health disorders.
  7. Seek professional assistance: Reducing your stress level might be beneficial to your child. Self-care is essential, and you should seek therapy or other tools to help you adjust to the changes in your family.

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