When a family finds itself in the middle of a separation or divorce, the first worry should always be “what about the children?”. Research has shown that while divorce can be hard on children, it’s often the fighting of the parents that most directly effects the children, and the impact depends on how well the parents are able to isolate the children from these disruptions.
You can find many psychologists and therapists on the web, all with hundreds of differing opinions on how to protect/shield your children from the effects of a divorce, but the truth is, IT WILL EFFECT THEM. To what degree is entirely up to you and your actions.
The key to protecting the children of divorce is convincing parents to step back from their anger and realize what is really at stake. It isn’t their pride, home or even money. What’s REALLY at stake is the long term well being of their children.
Two people who find it difficult to be in the same room with out screaming at each other, must learn to calmly, deliberately, and most of all lovingly make joint decisions about their children’s health. Mentally and physically.
I’d like to share a few tips with you, to keep in mind, if you ever find yourself in this situation. Please, respect and protect your children.
1. Try to maintain consistency. Children going through separation and divorce need a lot of stability to anchor them during the stressful times of the early stages. Change as little as possible. Do not change the way you discipline and reward your child. Keep the routines the same such as bed times and meals. Children feel safest when things are familiar.
2. Avoid letting your children take care of you. Many children try to act like adults and want to help and comfort their parents. That is not their job. It’s hard enough to be a child at times like these, so don’t treat them like a adult. Keep the child and parental roles distinct and separate.
3. Don’t use your children as messengers. The less the children feel they are a part of the battle, the better.
4. NEVER, EVER, disparage your former spouse in front of your children! Children know they are “part Mom” and “part Dad” and the criticism can batter a child’s self-esteem
5. Every day, reassure your children that they are loved! That the divorce isn’t their fault. Many children assume blame for a divorce.
6. If you have a drug or drinking problem, get counseling right away. Impairment will inhibit your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need.
7. If you are the non-custodial parent, pay your child support. The loss of income after a divorce puts children at a financial disadvantage and can effect them for the rest of their life. They should still be able to play sports, go to camp, have a sleeping bag for sleep overs and be part of “the group”. With holding money from your ex will hurt your children much more than any act or feeling of revenge you might get by not paying.
8. If you the custodial parent and not receiving child support, don’t tell your children. It feeds into the child’s sense of abandonment and further erodes his or her stability
9. If possible, don’t uproot your children. A stable residence and school life helps buffer children from the trauma of their parents divorce.
I hope you will never need to use this article, but if you do, remember to think of the children first in all of your future decisions.
For more information on this subject, Mike McCurley and David John Berndt, Ph.D. have done wonderful research and articles that are a must read. Also, visit www.DivorceMagazine.com , for the very latest, up to date information.