Many parents are asking about this topic
We receive many emails from parents, asking about divorce, its effects and minimizing the impact on children. Tom Burkhalter gives some invaluable insight: “The crucial fact in thinking about divorce is that the child’s post divorce adjustment will be dependent on the extent to which divorced parents can maintain a harmonious co-parenting relationship. Divorcing parents have a huge responsibility, in the midst of their own emotional turmoil, to try to prioritize their child’s parental needs. “Studies have shown that discord is more damaging than divorce separation for the child’s adjustment. Within that, conflicts involving the children, either over them or through them, are most damaging.
Tips to help make the process easier for everyone
- Tell the children what is happening when divorce is on the cards, but don’t get too adult or convoluted in explaining, and avoid explaining too many of the ‘adult’ issues.
- Avoid excessive emotion in explaining. Avoid blaming the other parent, and monitor your child’s level of stress.
- It is useful to inform others such as: the school, pediatrician and other support networks, of the situation. The support of other neutral adults is helpful.
- Try to avoid additional stresses early on in the process, so delay having to move, change schools, new housekeepers etc.
- As stated earlier, a good working relationship between parents is crucial. They need to be on the same page, collaborate, communicate, co-operate and be reasonable.
- Parents need to be aware of their own feelings and behaviour, and how that impacts on the child. They need to be aware of the child’s feelings and help them negotiate through the divorce. They should normalise the child’s responses and contextualize them. It helps to anticipate changes in preparation.
- Parenting needs to adapt as the child grows and different developmental needs emerge.
- Access and visitation need to be worked out. Here the needs may change too, as the child’s needs evolve, so be open to those needs and don’t rigidly enforce arrangements. To force a child into arrangements they don’t want, can compromise relations, especially with the non-custodial parent, in the long run.
- Studies confirm that where there are high levels of conflict, frequent contact with the conflictual non-custodial parent heightens maladjustment. Parents should facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent, without overtaxing the child’s coping resources.
- Remember that the quality of the relationship is ultimately more important than the frequency of contact, although both are ideal.
Want to learn more?
Our Life Talk book series provides insights for parents, as well as teenagers. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or thoughts about this topic.