A quick internet search could probably fill you with dread concerning your child’s destiny after your divorce. Studies abound about how children of divorced parents fare worse than their counterparts in a variety of areas..
Don’t let the statistics leave you feeling frightened and hopeless, though. There are things you can do to help your child after a divorce and make their future brighter.
As with adults, children experience anger, shock, disbelief, and anxiety during a divorce. Luckily, many of these intense emotions tend to disappear by the second year of separation. Only a small percentage of children endure it longer.
A Pennsylvania State University study suggests that most children cope well and rebound quickly after their parents separate. Children of both divorced and non-divorced parents were tracked into adulthood. On average, there was only a slight difference in the emotional wellness, academic achievement, behavioral problems, self-image, and social relationships between the two groups at the end of the study.
In addition, a University of Virginia study found that 25% of children of divorced parents experienced social, emotional, or psychological troubles. Interestingly, 10% of children whose parents remained married also experienced the same problems, suggesting that only about 15% of children of divorce are affected by the divorce.
Researchers found that high levels of chronic parental conflict before, during, or after a divorce significantly affected how a child adjusted to the situation. In other words, parents who handle their disputes in healthy ways will have better-adjusted children.
Along with healthy conflict-resolution strategies, here are seven tips to minimize the effects of divorce on your child.
Not everyone can agree all the time. Conflict is natural and healthy. It’s even helpful when children see parents disagree with each other or other adults and work through it constructively.
We are not talking about this kind of conflict.
When we talk about limiting conflict, we mean arguing, yelling, bad-mouthing, etc. There are no winners in this type of interaction. Everyone loses..
You don’t have to like each other to parent well. Try to unite in the common goal of raising a great human being.
If that seems impossible, at least limit your child’s exposure to it. And do not bad-mouth the other parent to them or make them the go-between.
Vent to other people. Not your child.
Communicate with your ex-spouse. Do not ask your child to deliver your messages for you.
There are plenty of divorced family apps on the market, like DComply, helping divorced parents get the conflict out of their communication and co-parent peacefully. Check out our blog for more info about some of the most well-known ones.
It is nearly impossible to improve your child’s emotions and behaviors if your own need considerable improvement. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, devastated, you name it, after a divorce. It can be even worse if you feel like you’re going through all those emotions alone.
You are not alone. Join a divorced parents group, or find a therapist who can help you cope with your feelings and behaviors.
If your emotions and behaviors are severe enough, rely on your co-parent and other family members to help you limit your exposure to your child. It’s not selfish to put yourself first so that you can be the best parent you can be.
You are your child’s emotional support system and mood stabilizer. They need to feel your warmth and love after some time at school or at their other parent’s house. Be present for them. Put busy work aside and let them know that you are available to listen.
Most children need some downtime to decompress before talking, so give them some space. Later, to facilitate communication, get them busy doing an activity with you, like coloring or playing a game.
Talk openly and honestly, but in a neutral and age-appropriate way, about your divorce. Answer their questions to the best of your ability without bad-mouthing their other parent.
Walk a fine line when it comes to monitoring and disciplining your child. Too much or too little isn’t healthy for them (or you).
Even though it can be more challenging as a single parent, keep an eye on what your child is doing. Avoid hovering over and critiquing them, though.
Also, don’t over- or under-compensate on the rules and discipline in your household. Your child still needs regular routines and boundaries.
Don’t let your or your child’s health take a back-burner after your divorce. Now, more than ever, you need to eat healthy food and exercise. Clean fuel for your body and exercise produce happier thoughts and emotions for most people. Lead the way for your child by example.
A single mother has more influence than she may realize over a non-custodial father’s involvement in a child’s life. Respectful communication is the key. Good communication positively impacts all relationships within the family, increases the chances of more participation by the father, and decreases the instances of unpaid child support. Again, a co-parenting app can keep dad involved and smooth out communications, child support payments, and scheduling.
Children with social support tend to recover better from divorce in the long run. Too much avoidance of, or distractions from, social situations could be a sign that your child needs additional help. Seek professional guidance for your child if they have shunned social interactions and spend most of their time alone. Also, intervene if they distract themselves too much with things like school work, video games, virtual friends, etc.
Divorce doesn’t have to doom your child to a life of emotional difficulties. You can unite with your ex to parent successfully for your child’s well-being. Keep the lines of communication open and respectful with your ex-spouse and your child. Turn to apps and professional counselors for support. By working together and focusing on the right things, you and your ex can raise a healthy, happy kid.