Since all children are physically, emotionally and psychologically different, nobody can pinpoint exactly how each child will react to their parents’ divorce. It is common for children, especially older children, to think that they are the reason for their parents splitting up. That is just not the case.
Couples get divorced for a multitude of reasons. The final straw may include never lifting up the toilet seat or not helping with household chores, but the real reasons that lead to divorce are often deeply rooted in years of unfulfillment, poor communication, a lack of affection, financial troubles, addiction, or abuse, among others.
Some couples put off divorce for years because of their children. Parents don’t want their kids to become “children of divorce,” but as time goes on, divorce becomes the only acceptable option. In other instances, when relationships are toxic and attempts to reignite the relationship have failed, separation can provide relief for the parents and children if the parents can agree to treat one another with respect.
The profound impact of consistent conflict
One of the overarching elements that cause children to develop stress and anxiety issues is parental discord. All couples argue, but persistently poor communication, yelling, and pitting your children against their other parent can lead to increased anxiety and stress for your child. This anxiety can manifest and hurt a child’s development, concentration, health, and relationships later in life.
In addition to anxiety, consistent parental conflict often causes a child to display cognitive dissonance, which leads the child to align with one parent over the other. Without even realizing they said it loud enough for their children to hear or misunderstanding the harm it could cause, parents in hurtful relationships may make comments like, “Why didn’t your father tell me that?” or murmur, “What a slob…” under their breath.
These seemingly innocent comments have a profound impact on children. Because they feel torn between their parents, they feel like they have to choose, and that can diminish their relationship with the other parent.
How can divorcing parents help their children transition?
While the best interests of the child should always come first, in many custody determinations, that isn’t the case. Just because you won primary custody, it shouldn’t lead to complete disrespect of your ex and shunning your children from seeing their other parent. The only justification for this kind of action is severe cases that would put the children in danger if they were to interact with their other parent.
Children and adults heal from divorce differently and on different timetables. The best thing you can do for your child is to respect your ex enough to maintain an amicable relationship post-divorce.
Other things you can do to help your children heal from divorce are to make sure your children are heard, offer them support, legitimize their feelings, encourage them to be honest and keep their schedule as close to the same as possible. Children thrive on stability.
To make divorce easier on yourself, allow yourself to be vulnerable, maintain a healthy support system that will enable you to vent without judgment and practice a healthy lifestyle. Divorces happen, but you can manage them in a healthy way that doesn’t permanently hinder you or your child’s current and future growth.