3 Easy Tips on How to Help Children of Divorce
Children of divorce do not have a say in whom their parent chooses to marry, especially if it was before he/she was born. Older children and teens often do have an opinion, but again, the decision is ultimately the desires of the adults. As a result, more times than I care to count, children of divorce are often in the middle of a heated and highly conflicted situation that they did not create.
In the US, researchers estimate that 40-50% of all first marriages, and 60% of second marriages, will end in divorce. Dr. William H. Doherty, noted marriage scholar and therapist, noted that there are some well-known factors that put people at higher risk for divorce. Dr. Doherty reported the following risk factors: marrying at a very early age, less education and income, living together before marriage, a premarital pregnancy, no religious affiliation, coming from a divorced family, and feelings of insecurity.
He stated further that the most common reasons people give for their divorce are lack of commitment, too much arguing, infidelity, marrying too young, unrealistic expectations, lack of equality in the relationship, lack of preparation, and abuse.
I see all of the above in some combination at my practice in working with families post-divorce or in the beginning stages. What saddens me so are the children who are often caught (or placed) in the middle of this very adult situation.
Healthy marriages are good for children. We know that growing up in a happy and safe home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. And that children who observe high conflict and abuse and fighting in the home are often emotionally scarred as children and as adults in forging new relationships.
I offer the following three major notes in helping your children survive the family separation and/or divorce:
- Children need to understand that the mother and father are divorcing each other and not the children. Many children fear they will not see one of their parents anymore after the divorce. And that the anger the parents have between each other is also directed towards them.
- Parents need to avoid talking poorly and negatively about the absent parent to them. The child understands that the DNA he/she carries is a product of both of you. When you put that parent down, you put the child down. That isn’t fair.
- Fight for your child. If you partner is so angry with you (with the exception of domestic violence and other forms of abuse), that he/she withholds visits and contact with your children, you should seek legal and professional advice. Remember, it’s not about you, it is about the children and each child being afforded the privilege of sharing their life with both parents- who while could not stay together, still share the love of their child (ren).
I could go on and on with advice and tips for a healthy divorce and separation, but there are great books and resources on the internet and in your bookstores about the impact of divorce on children. My goal here is to remind adults that this is not the time to be selfish or defeated because our children are depending on us to model healthy solutions.