Although the divorce rate for couples under 50 has slowly decreased in the last 10 years, divorces are still occurring in many families. Children are most affected by the turmoil of a disintegrating marriage. They often have not acquired the emotional and developmental tools needed to effectively deal with turmoil and grief. Researchers continue, however, to find new ways to help children through challenges like this.
Understanding the issues that accompany divorce can provide a base for helping your children. According to the founder of Children of Divorce Intervention Program, Joann Pedro-Carroll, there are three main areas that impact divorcing families: hostile conflict, the parent-child relationship, and the long-term quality of parenting children. Pedro-Carroll says, “a healthy balance among these factors seems to be. . . critical when the parents are no longer spouses.” Below, she offers concrete tips to help.
- Prep: Give children time to understand what is happening before the divorce process actually begins.
- Communicate Openly: Allow children to ask questions and discuss issues any time.
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- Practice Peace: Do your disagreeing, arguing, and negotiating away from the children and be sure to spend quality time with each, letting them know that you will always love them no matter what happens.
- Consistency Matters: Perhaps more than anything, be consistent, “with information, with discipline, with routines, with everything. This is a good thing to strive for as a parent anyway, but it is critical for a family dealing with divorce.”
- Equip Yourself: Take care of yourself so you’ll have what you need to take care of the children.
- Outside Support: Find support groups for the children and for yourself. Knowing you’re not alone can make a huge difference in family relationships. Look for after school or community programs after divorce.
Psychologists have discovered that the beginning of a divorce can be the most stressful time. Try out these techniques as soon as one can. Remember, it will take practice to naturally employ them, keep working at it and the children will benefit. If either one or both parents can put the children first, helping them through the muddy, emotional waters of divorce, there’s every opportunity for them to grow up successfully, contributing positively to society.