Going through a divorce where there are children involved is an anxiety-provoking scenario with much worry on the past of the parents as to what negative effects the divorce will have on their kids. I firmly believe that it isnít so much the divorce but how you choose to handle the divorce that will have the greatest impact on your children.
Going through a divorce where there are children involved is an anxiety-provoking scenario with much worry on the past of the parents as to what negative effects the divorce will have on their kids. I firmly believe that it isn’t so much the divorce but how you choose to handle the divorce that will have the greatest impact on your children.
Living in an unhappy household where two parents are continually arguing does not serve anyone, least of all the kids. If you have done everything in your power to make your marriage work and have found that it still doesn’t, divorce is the natural outcome. To live in a house where there is intense tension, fighting and coldness between a husband and wife only serves to make the kids anxious, worried and unhappy.
In addition, it is important to note that our children model themselves after what they see in their parents. We certainly don’t want our kids to think that a bad marriage is all there is to the institution. Nor do we want them to model destructive behavior.
Remember, as kids we observe our parents and all too often we create meanings about ourselves in relation to their behavior which turns into emotional baggage for the future. So for instance, if your Dad was highly negative, you may create the meaning about yourself that you aren’t good enough. As a kid, that makes a lot of sense but the problem is that you come to believe those meanings are true and thereby live your life as if you are not good enough.
We don’t want our kids to create negative meanings about themselves or about marriage in general as a result of our divorce. It is up to us as their role models to strive to do everything in our power to allow our kids to see that divorce does not have to be a destructive act. Rather we can show our children that we have risen to the challenge of divorce and have come out a better person and parent. We can demonstrate to them that we are willing to be a bigger person for their benefit.
Here are some guidelines when it comes to kids and divorce:
-First off, kids need to know that the divorce is not about them. They need to know that although their parents are divorcing, this is not a divorce between parent and child. Make certain they know they are deeply loved and cherished. Be there for them; be accessible if you are not the primary caregiver.
-Kids need to feel safe and secure and parents should do whatever they can to achieve that goal. Create highly specific boundaries around your kids that keep them safe from physical and mental anguish.
-Whatever you are feeling, the kids might be feeling too (or not). They too will grieve (or not) in their own way. Be honest (age appropriate) without going into any of the details about the divorce. Ask them how they are feeling but don’t push unless they are willing to speak.
-What your mind chatter is telling you about the harm you have caused your children is just that: mind chatter. Don’t believe that just because you have fears for your children that those fears are necessarily true .
-If you notice a major change in your child, such as their spending too much time alone, being extremely sullen for extended periods of time or angry and acting out, contact a psychologist. Give them the support and guidance they need.
-Put the child’s welfare first. Commit to your ex not to discuss the divorce in front of the kids. Keep your phone conversations with your ex private.
-Do not bad-mouth each other in front of the kids. No matter what you might be feeling about your ex, he or she is till a parent to your children and it is extremely hurtful to hear bad things about a parent.
-There are all kinds of family in our country. It is not the homogenized traditional family that existed in the first half of the 20th century. Family units come in all sizes and designs. Divorce is a very common occurrence today and no longer a social stigma. Make your divorce the kind that people can admire.
More important are the lessons we can impart to our children and the example we can set for them after our divorce. Our kids will have face challenges throughout their lives and how we handle this life transition will serve as a powerful blueprint for their future.
If we demonstrate to our kids that we can rise to this challenge it will have huge impact on their lives. We can teach them strength, empowerment, civility, humility, empathy, selflessness, and perspective among other things. Consider the opportunity you have to influence your children? You get to choose.
Every challenge we face in life offers us a unique opportunity to rise above the fray and become something more than we were before. As divorced parents, we learn to put aside wounded egos and fear for our children’s sake and thereby grow as human beings to become the kind of parent to our children that will ensure a bright future for them. We have the power of choice. In other words, divorce does not have to have a negative impact on our kids.