As the nation’s divorce rate continues to ascend, the dissolution of marriage vows has lost much of its stigma. For many unhappy couples, the decision to separate is difficult to make, but it is not ridden with the same sense of guilt and shame that it was years ago. Even more, because divorce is so prevalent, the children of divorced parents are less likely to feel like they do not fit in among their peers, as many face similar familial situations. Yet, studies have shown that divorce can still take a great toll on young ones caught in the crossfire. According to research done by Reuters Health, children who have faced hardship, including but not limited to divorce, are more likely to start drinking before age 15 that children who have not.
We do not relay this information in order to insist that unhappy couples “stick it out” for the sake of their kids. Instead, we can glean that separation or divorce places a particular set of stresses upon a young person and that parents must pay attention to these issues should they decide to end their relationship. Parents cannot control their children’s emotional response to divorce, but they can help their children find healthy forms of self-expression and ensure that they feel loved and care for throughout and after the separation.
Divorce is a difficult time for everyone—the process can take you through a wide range of emotions. If you are a parent, it is important to balance dealing with your own feelings of sadness, anger, etc. while still making sure that your are paying attention to your child’s needs. For instance, it is always a good idea to spend some extra quality time together.
Creating a dialogue about divorce with your child or teenager is important, but challenging. You will want to be open so that you can speak to as many your child’s questions as possible. However, it is also crucial that, in these conversations, you do not unconsciously prod your child to take a side. Whatever your feelings may be about your spouse, disparaging him/her in front of your child is not a helpful solution.
Lastly, sometimes it is beneficial to seek outside help for you child during your divorce. Some children respond to divorce by feeling hurt or betrayed by their parents. They may find it helpful to work through these feelings with a psychologist who specializes in these issues. If you notice that your child is acting out as a result of your separation or divorce, it may be helpful for you to seek the guidance of a trained clinician before it gets out of control. Though your child is bound to be affected by your divorce, you can help your child cope with those feelings in healthy, undamaging ways.