Reducing the Negative Effects of Divorce on Children

Although parents in conflict are dealing with heightened emotions and stresses, they think they do not reflect this on their children. Children notice everything and are affected. This can create a negative impact on their psyche and their lives. 

 The conflict between parents can cause mental health problems for the children, such as depression, anxiety, social introversion, and aggressive behaviour. Children with divorced families are most likely to go through mental health issues because they have so much to worry about, even after the divorce has taken place and the conflict isn’t as heated. The children have bigger problems than stable two-parent home children will ever understand. For instance, they may think about whether both parents will attend special events, such as birthdays, holidays and school activities.

It is an undeniable fact that divorce causes worry and anxiety in the child. They may experience many emotions such as guilt, abandonment, being unwanted and unloved.  The first reaction they usually have is a sense of guilt brought about by the thought: “they are going to divorce because of me.” This thought is inevitable, especially for children who witness the arguments of their parents. This is where open communication is essential to preserve the mental and psychological stability of the children. The reason for the divorce should be shared appropriately so that the children do not feel guilty and carry the guilt throughout their childhood and even adult life – affecting their future relationships. 

More or less, all children are affected by their parent’s divorce but how it is communicated, when it is communicated, and who communicates it is very important. . Children should not learn about the decision to divorce during a discussion. Or they should not hear about it from someone other than his parents. It is the parents’ responsibility and the parents’ responsibility alone to explain the decision to their children in a calm and respectful way. They should not degrade the other parent in the process – so that children do not have a bias and can have a healthy relationship with both parents. Open communication will allow children to also share their thoughts and allow them to express their feelings freely to overcome their grief and confusion

After the divorce, try your best not to change the city or school where the children live, at least until the rest of the school year. Changing the environment may increase insecurity and anxiety for children, and also cause them to show negative behaviours.This is not suitable for all cases, but it should be taken into account to avoid the feeling of loss and unfamiliarity. Their common support groups, friends and teachers, may even help the children get through this period with stability as they navigate through this transition.

If it is not possible to stay in the same city, then discuss with your children openly about the new transition and change so they do not feel alone. Keep their support systems intact, even through phone calls, so that they do not feel insecurity. Use the opportunity to explain to your children the concept of a fresh start and a clean slate, so that they can also view the change in a positive light rather than a daunting one.

Even if the parents are separated, a joint decision should be taken on issues related to the children. Parents should ignore their personal conflicts and focus on who they are responsible for first. They should adjust their behaviour during and after the divorce by considering the future of the child.

One of the things that make everything even more complicated is when parents exhibit competition with one other by fulfilling every wish of their children. Parenting roles do not change after parents decide to separate. Do not use the divorce as an opportunity to be petty and use ego as your guide to be the “favourite parent.” By buying your children’s favour, you are letting go of your parental responsibility. In other words, parents still need to prepare their children for the future and provide the necessary tools for this. When the children see that everything they want, they get, they can use this as a trump card. This will not build resilience in them and prepare them for the ups and downs of life. Parents should maintain their attitudes towards their children in a balanced and democratic manner, even after divorce.

Also extremely important, parents should not talk badly about each other in front of children and force their children to take sides. Even if they are very angry with each other, they should not forget that their children love both parents equally and do not want to lose any of them. Maintaining a relationship with both parents is developmentally healthy for children – robbing them of this will be detrimental to their social and emotional well-being. 

Last but not least, children should grow up listening to their family’s good stories and happy moments as much as possible. Believe it or not, they need to hear and know that their parents loved each other once, and had a good time. The children need to know that the decision to be together and be separate was a thoughtful, wise decision that was the betterment for the children and for themselves – and is a decision that brought their family closer together without tension or bitter arguments. Then they can accept the reality that they want to go separate ways in their lives. Building this resiliency and emotional maturity in your children must be modelled before and during conflicts, so children are equipped no matter what the circumstances. Communication is key.