Divorce tends to impact children most directly – the intact household they have known suddenly begins to break apart and they worry about what their parents’ split means for their welfare. Given that more and more families go through divorce, children have peers that give them a sense of what will happen and hope in time they will adapt. But during the process and the first few months after it concludes, children feel ill at ease. While we know that children tend to have more resilience than we realize, that in no way compensates for the anxiety and insecurity they feel in the process. As this recent article in U.S. News indicates, parents can take positive steps to minimize the psychological impact of divorce.
What we know most of all is that children during divorce need consistency and reassurance. Parents who can make sure that the children stay in their regular routines and see their parents working together and showing up together for school and extracurricular events significantly reduce their children’s anxiety. The less rancor between and about parents, the more comfort the children will feel.
Another excellent point made in the article concerns communication. Parents should encourage open communication with their children and assure them if they have questions or just want to vent they can do so without judgment. Parents who refrain from “trash talking” the other parent will build healthier children. Giving children space to express themselves to their parents will build trust and strength.
Some children may have more trouble adjusting, and parents may wonder if they should seek counseling. Generally, if the parents see any maladjustment, particularly to the point of interfering with normal functioning, the parents should seek out medical or therapeutic assistance.
Parents should consider couples counseling to learn to co-parent during and after divorce. While they may not save their marriage, they can salvage the ability to work together for the benefit of the children, maintain similar rules in their households and find a level of civility that works best for the children.
In the end, parents should remember that children will have difficulty and that is completely normal. Parents made an adult decision to separate that children may not understand, so parents need to accept that children will need time, space and support to adjust to the changes.
If you have questions about the psychological impact of divorce on children, contact us – we can help.