We have all heard the term “staying together for the kids” to refer to parents who remain married until their children are grown and out of the house. What many parents don’t realize is that continuous exposure to conflict is much more detrimental to a child’s development than a divorce. While it’s true children experience pain during their parent’s divorce, studies indicate that child whose exposure to conflict is minimize are likely to go on to live well developed lives.
That said, expect your children to feel a wide range of emotions when they learn about the divorce. Encourage them to share their emotions with you and help them identity what they are feeling. Many children who go through divorce experience the following five stages of grief:
The research states that children as young as 6 months old can be negatively impacted by their parents fighting. Conflict in the home causes developing brains to show distress and may create lasting effects such as aggression, anxiety and depression. It’s extremely important to remember this when going through a separation or divorce. While your emotions are sure to run high, it’s your duty as a parent to ensure the children are not exposed to your fighting. Parental conflict is most harmful to kids when it is reoccurring and aggressive. Aggressive fighting is defined by verbal insults, yelling, being physical or giving the silent treatment for an extended period of time. As such, it may be necessary to “cool off” during intense conversations or schedule time to discuss the separation when the children are out of the house. And never ever use your children as pawns to hurt the other parent.
While it may seem divorce is nothing but detrimental a child’s behaviour and development, this is not necessarily the case. Many children of divorce go on to live well adjusted and fulfilled lives of their own following a separation. You can promote a healthy adjustment by legitimizing their feelings, being honest about the divorce, providing concrete answers to their question, offering emotional support – or offering to help find a third party for them to talk to, and keeping the details in check. Children do not need to know all aspects of the separation. Answer their questions with honesty but do not divulge “grown up” information. When it comes time to tell your children about the divorce be prepared for them to ask many questions about the logistics of their every day lives. They will want to know where they will be sleeping, where their toys will stay, when they will see each parent and make sure you reassure them of your unconditional love.
If you are going through a divorce and think mediation is right for you, connect with us to set up an initial consultation.