The impact of divorce on children is well documented and discouraging, but there is hope and skillful ways to minimize the impact of divorce on children. On the concerning side, here are some startling facts. Adult children of divorced parents experience mental health problems significantly more often than do the adult children of intact families. The college attendance rate is about 60 percent lower among children of divorced parents compared with children of intact families. Divorce has been found to be associated with a higher incidence of depression, withdrawal from friends and family; aggressive, impulsive, or hyperactive behavior; and either withdrawing from participation in the classroom or becoming disruptive. Daughters of divorced parents tend to divorce more frequently than do the sons of divorced parents, with the risk as much as 87 percent higher during the earlier years of marriage.
The facts presented above are not intended to discourage the thousands of men and women, who through no fault of their own are divorced or planning to divorce. Instead, these facts are shared as a reminder to those who are married or are considering getting married that divorce carries with it many potentially harmful and life changing consequences for everyone involved. The impact on children is not to be taken lightly. Studies find that those parents who fight and argue through the divorce process tend to have the greatest negative impact on their children. If parents remain amicable, the kids have a good relationship with both parents, extended family, school support, and routines are not too disrupted; children will have little or no lasting negative effects from their parent’s divorce. Kids who are able to see both parents (joint custody) tend to fair better than kids who only see one parent (sole custody arrangements). 75% of children are essentially unharmed by their parent’s divorce, meaning there is no permanent damage. This is not to say that it’s easy or painless, but most kids, with help, can work through it.
When preparing for divorce, there are some things you can do that can help reduce the impact on your children. Deciding to divorce is a private and adult decision. Kids should never be consulted or given any decision making power in a pending divorce. This puts the kids in the middle. Children should be informed in a non-blaming manner about the state of the marriage or if a decision has been made to end it. You owe it your children to try to resolve conflicts respectfully and without yelling, screaming and berating each other. This doesn’t help the divorce process and it causes fear and pain for your children. Kids do not want you to fight in front of them and they don’t want to hear you say nasty things about the other parent. Keep arguments private and use your support system, not your kids, to vent about your spouse. It’s important to make sure your kids know and are told (often) that the divorce is not their fault and there is nothing they could have done to change it. Some kids are prone to blaming themselves, so provide that reassurance to them.
When it comes time to separate and share custody, there are things that can help. Reassure your kids that you want them to have a relationship with both parents. Allow them some input to creating new routines and schedules. You can read books on divorce to your kids to help them realize this is something normal that lots of families go through. You can provide them a picture or memorable object to keep with them at the other parent’s house to remind them of you. Make sure all communication to directly with your ex. Do not use kids to send or pass messages. This puts them in the middle and they often feel pressure to gather information or take sides. Kids thrive on structure and predictability. Help them set up new routines. Do your best to have consistent expectations and rules at each household. Continuity is important for kids. This is where co-parenting is important.
Because every situation is unique and challenging it can be beneficial to sit down with a good therapist who is neutral and figure what the best way to handle some of these difficult situations in your life. If you are concerned about issues you are having, please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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