Divorce can be hard on children, but there are things parents can do to make it easier, such as treating each other respectfully.
When it comes to the common issues that come up during a divorce, few disputes may be as emotional and contentious as parenting time and decision making. Most Colorado parents who are going through a divorce only want what is best for their children, but often their own feelings and resentment toward each other get in the way. Divorce is also frequently very frightening for both parents who do not know what their lives and their children’s lives will be like after the divorce. Dealing with their parents’ feelings and emotions of fear and anger can sometimes prove challenging for children going through a divorce.
When ending a marriage, it is just as important, if not more so, for each spouse to consider their children’s feelings as well as their own. This is also a difficult and even frightening time for children. The way parents handle the separation and treat each other in their interactions can make a big difference in how children adjust during and after their parents’ divorce.
Common reactions that children have to divorce
Each child is unique, but children often have similar responses when dealing with their parents’ breakup, states Web MD. Younger children may regress in their behaviors. They usually have difficulty understanding the complexities of divorce, so they often cope by becoming more dependent on their parents and other adults they trust. For example, a child who hasn’t wet the bed for months may suddenly start having accidents in the middle of the night. Younger children may have difficulty going to sleep on their own, or they may start wanting bedtime stories again or other methods of comfort they had outgrown. A child who is speaking in full sentences may revert to single words or baby talk. Most of these behaviors are the child’s attempt to obtain more attention from his or her parents
On the other hand, older children may respond by acting out and becoming more independent. They may develop difficulties in school or in social situations. They are at risk for sexual acting out or involvement with drugs and alcohol. Older children often understand the reasons for their parents’ divorce, and some may even support the split. This rarely lessens the shock of suddenly having their parents in separate households, especially if one or both parents start dating again. It is of utmost importance to a child’s emotional development that divorcing parents maintain an ability to effectively communicate and problem solve together.
Helping children cope
After the new parenting arrangements have been set up, it is important to adhere to routines and rules, states Kids Health. The following are some additional ways to help children adjust:
- Encourage children to stay in contact with the other parent on non-custodial days.
- Be consistent but not rigid about rules,
- Develop new, fun family traditions.
- Never speak negatively about the other parent in front of the children.
- Don’t use the children as a means to snoop on what the other parent is doing or to relay messages back and forth.
- Treat the other parent with respect, even if he or she is not showing the same courtesy.
- In short, absent abuse or other unique circumstances, support the children’s relationship with the other parent.
It is of great importance that each parent let the children know they are loved and that their feelings and opinions are important. It can help a great deal when children know they can turn to either parent when they need them. It is reassuring to a child to know that his or her parents still talk about the child and what is going on with him or her. If a child’s emotional distress becomes concerning, Littman Family Law can refer you to a child therapist for professional assistance.
Helping children cope with a divorce is a delicate subject. If you are considering a divorce and are concerned about how your children will react, it may help to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
In our firm, we frequently refer clients to a child specialist to help with designing a parenting plan to give each parent access to the children, consistent with the history of parenting and the child’s developmental needs. This enables parents to maintain control of their case while making the best decisions for their children. Littman Family Law strongly believes that whenever it is possible, parents should be encouraged to cooperate and collaborate, rather than leaving decisions to a court system that knows little or nothing about the family.
Keywords: divorce, children, custody