Divorce is challenging for everyone, whether you’re 60 or six. Children, in particular, are vulnerable to the negative effects of divorce, but parents can have a powerful influence on how well their child adapts. Two important factors in determining whether divorce will have a negative impact on a child’s future are: 1.) The level of conflict between the parents following the divorce, and 2.) How well each parent adjusts to the break-up. If you’re struggling emotionally, the best gift you can give your child is to get the support you need to move forward in a positive way. If you and your ex are continuing to have conflict, do whatever it takes – compromise, mediation, co-parenting therapy – to end the battles.
Other key strategies:
- Don’t talk negatively about your ex to your child, in front of your child, or where they may accidentally overhear you. Most parents think they do well at this, but aren’t aware of how many comments slip out.
- Don’t discuss adult concerns with your child, including child support, disagreements with your ex, or who’s to blame for the divorce.
- Spend enjoyable one-on-one time with your child when you’re able to.
- If possible, avoid other major changes in your child’s life for a while (such as moving, changing schools, or new step-parents).
- Provide extra nurturing and kindness.
- Continue to set limits and enforce rules; consistent structure helps kids feel secure.
- Encourage your child to express their feelings in an appropriate way.
- Allow your child to have their own emotional reaction; they may feel very differently about the break-up than you do.
- Plan positive activities and start new traditions within your new family unit.
- If your child seems to be struggling, find a therapist they can talk to.
Fundamentally, all children need three things: warmth, stability, and limits. You can go a long way toward helping your child adjust to a divorce by providing these three things, by minimizing your conflict with their other parent, and by taking care of yourself, too.
For additional support, contact Renown Behavioral Health at 775-982-5762.
By: Kristen Davis-Coelho, Ph.D. Renown Behavioral Health