Divorce isn’t easy and when couples start talking about splitting up , their children are the main reason for holding on and trying as long as they can. Parents tell themselves that they cannot do it, as they suspect their children will be happier in an intact marriage instead of taking the burden of a divorced family. But if and when staying in a marriage is no longer an option what should couples do? Children are not happy in a home that has an emotional climate full of discord. Research evidence and my own counselling work over years has shown that parents can raise a happy, healthy child in a variety of scenarios—including divorced families.
Children are quite resilient and if they have two committed parents even if they can’t remain married anymore, they can still grow up into well-adjusted people. But separation and divorce can be heart breaking, stressful, and a confusing time , and very often children can feel their world collapsing. For children of any age, it can be very traumatic to witness the breaking of their parents’ marriage. Young children struggle to understand and can feel very angry because of the uncertainty that comes with it. Older children sometimes start blaming themselves for the problems at home. Sadly divorce is never a seamless process and both couples and their children find transitional time difficult as it brings with it grief and hardship.
So when parents know that hardships and big emotions will be part and parcel of a divorce for children , then it is better to be prepared and prepare their children well too. They need to do whatever that can be done to make sure the negative effect is minimised and it doesn’t leave a long lasting residue on their children.
To do this, suggested here are some ways to help children cope with the upheaval of a breakup.
- Remember that the most important common agenda that parents need to forever keep in mind is to make their children’s well-being their top priority.
- Parents need to go back to their emotional regulation skills. They need patience to reassure their children and minimise stress as the children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances.
- Provide routines that children can rely on and give them an environment where children can feel there is care , stability and similar structure they are used to as much as possible.
- Maintain a working relationship with each other to help children feel more rested and less anguished by minimising the times they witness parents in conflict. With parent’s support, children can’t only successfully navigate this unsettling time, but even emerge from it feeling loved and having a chance to build stronger bonds with both parents.
- Talk to the children and explain that good relationships matter and parents don’t need to be married or living in the same house for that.
- Don’t use the children as a go-between for communication with each other as children didn’t ask for the divorce. It is important that they are kept away from the discord, as that was the main reason why their parents were divorced in the first place.
- Remember children need emotionally stable parents who can work hard to not get their past baggages in the parenting and are committed to be whole heartedly present for their children.
- Both parents have to be in sync with the idea that their children need stability, fair discipline, love and emotionally responsive parents. And if they can’t reconcile or keep the Cold War off , their children might never learn about good relationships and might end up carrying parent’s baggage to their own adult lives.
Let’s now see it from a child’s perspective. What do children want from their parents during and after a divorce ?
- I am urging you two to please stop fighting and agree on matters that are related to me. When you fight about me, I feel its my fault and makes me very guilty and I drown in deep sadness.
- Make sure you don’t make me a referee for you. I feel sad and uncomfortable if you don’t communicate with each other and send messages back and forth between you.
- I need both of you in my life and I don’t want to be a tattle on any one of you.
- Stay involved in my activities, my school work and everything else as when you don’t stay involved, it seems as if I am not important to you and that you don’t really love me.
- I want to enjoy the time that I spend with each one of you. If you start taking a score and get upset, I feel you are asking me take sides to love one parent more than the other.
- I want to love both of you equally. Please don’t not say mean and horrible things about each other, only kind things, or don’t say anything at all. I end up feeling resentment towards one parent or the other which makes me very sad and confused.
- Please remember that I want both of you in my life because even though we three are not a family anymore, for me you two will always be my family that is now living in two different houses.
Divorce doesn’t have to be an end of the world for parents and their children. Being united in minimising stress and supporting children will not only successfully help them navigate this unsettling time, but can also be instrumental in making children emerge from it feeling loved, confident and having a closer bond with both parents.
Be mindful of your child’s mental health Moms & Dads and make it the top most priority because giving them a happy childhood was one of the main reasons for you to take the plunge to divorce remember!
This article is also featured in the Times of India