Extensive research suggests that for children of divorce, what is most damaging is the experience of their parents fighting. How children adjust and fare after a divorce is closely linked to how their parents get along with each other.
Those children whose parents are civil and demonstrate good faith towards one another are much more likely to have an easier time with the divorce, and move forward with their lives. When parents continue to have conflict, the children may experience a variety of difficult emotions. Among the many feelings they may experience are fear, sadness, depression, feelings of helplessness, anger, and hopelessness. As children mature into adolescence, these difficult feelings often lead to acting out behaviors, among them poor grades and underachievement, eating disorders, law violations, drug abuse, and promiscuity.
Kids know that their divorcing parents don’t get along and probably don’t like each other. Knowing that often leaves them feeling as if they are caught in the middle and must choose between one parent or the other. If they show any connection or affection towards one, they’re left feeling as if they’re betraying or hurting the other. For the child, having to make that choice is a no win proposition.
In order to help your child navigate his parent’s divorce, it is important that each parent convey an acceptance of the other parent. It is never helpful to involve a child in any conflicts with a former spouse, or to say negative things about the other. Even asking a child questions about the other parent, their visits, or asking them to relay a message, can make them feel uncomfortable.
The more parents are able to come to terms with their differences and disagreements, the greater chance the children will have of managing their parents’ divorce and changes in their lives.
About Barbra Danin
Barbra Danin is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Clinical Art Therapist, and EMDR Certified, and works with children, adolescents and families. Further information can be found at: barbradanin.com
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