There is no way to keep your divorce from having an impact on your children. All research shows that divorce is hard for them. However, the level of conflict they experience during and after the divorce period is the greatest indicator of the immediate impact on them and to their later successes in life. This includes their future socialization, their future achievements in school, careers, and their overall achievement in life. All of these are impacted by the level of parental conflict during and in the wake of the divorce process.
Ways Children Respond to Divorce
There are different ways children respond while their parents are going through a divorce. Some of the ways are:
- Acting out. Voiceless and caught in the middle of the family conflict, or – worse – ignored by their overwhelmed parents, this child decides, “I’m done trying to be the well-behaved kid, and I start doing my own thing.” At least, this will get the child the parental attention he or she wants. Negative attention is attention.
- Withdrawing. Coping with divorce is above a parent’s paygrade. Parents often struggle with feeling overwhelmed. Lacking any control or power over her circumstances, this child may feel so overwhelmed that she becomes sullen, depressed and/or withdrawn.
- Becoming a peacemaker. Desperate to stop the family strife and wanting to restore family life, this child may try to step in and settle the arguments between the parents. This is futile, of course, because children are vastly under equipped for this job.
Parents Can Decrease the Negative Impact of Their Divorce
What can parents do?
- Parents can take steps to lower the conflict, especially when around the children.
- Parents can take difficult discussions outside the home. Even if the children cannot hear your words, they hear your tone and feel the tension.
- Parents can agree upon a shared narrative to give to the children, one that does not blame either parent. Regardless of any parent’s fault, when parents tell their children that this is an adult decision, it reinforces to the children that they did not cause the split.
- Parents can be truly clear the family is not ending. That Mom and Dad may not be married, but they will always be Mom and Dad, they will always be their beloved children and Mom and Dad will always have their backs.
- Parents can help the children understand it is their parents who are responsible to resolve this family matter.
- Parents can assure the children they are listening and will take their voices and best interest into consideration in making family decisions.
- Children need assurance that their parents are still going to be their parents and will work together to make decisions that are in the children’s best interest.
- When children feel their parents are working together, making decisions for their welfare, it helps them feel their parents are keeping them safe it feels “normal”.
Each of these points, when employed, helps lower the negative impact of divorce on children.
Here’s something parents can do to make all these things happen. Parents can choose a peacemaking approach to divorce, such as Collaborative Divorce, which empowers them to turn arguments into productive conversations, disagreements into solutions, and build a new future around family-oriented decisions.
Collaborative Divorce is dedicated to helping clients through the divorce process in a more peaceful way. Collaborative Divorce helps couples lower the present and future impact of divorce on their children and, in turn, gives them the best opportunity succeed in their schools, in their careers, and in their lives. And that is priceless.