Helping your Children Cope with Divorce
It is a sad fact that, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 50 percent of first-time marriages end in divorce and that in 66 percent of these cases children are involved. To make matters worse, couples seeking advice on how to go about minimizing the effect divorce has on their children are often confronted by confusing and sometimes contradictory advice from so called experts.
Long-term effects of divorce on children
It has been found that some couples remain together ‘for the sake of the children’ because they are worried about the long-tern effects a separation might have on their youngsters.
Studies have shown that some 80 percent of children recover from the after effects of the event within two years and subsequently go on to become well balanced productive members of society. Depending on their age at the time of the divorce their memory of the event becomes dulled and has a much reduced influence on their daily lives. The effects on the remaining 20 percent tend to be more marked, however, and their lives continue to be plagued by social and psychological issues.
Early warning signs of potential issues include eating and sleeping problems and moodiness, which manifests itself in the form of increased levels of anger, fear regression and sadness. Research indicates that well into adulthood these individuals are significantly more likely to suffer from failed relationships and mental problems.
The manner in which parents behave during and after the divorce has been found to have a major impact on how well and how quickly their children adjust. In many cases, youngsters who have been exposed to high levels of marital discord for a period of time before the divorce are found to adjust in a more positive way than those who did not. This is not so surprising, as children who recognize that their parents are not getting along as well as they should are not as shocked and distressed as those who are completely unaware that anything is wrong. In the severest of cases children who have been exposed to high levels of arguing and constant bickering between their parents frequently see divorce as being a relief; a positive outcome.
A detailed study carried out over a period of 25 years by Psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington and journalist John Kelly, entitled ‘For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered’ found that when comparing the lives of children whose parents stayed together with those who had divorced there was little difference. In adulthood, 25 percent of those from broken homes experienced quite serious emotional, social and psychological issues, compared with 10 percent of those where both parents stayed together. The 15 percent variation may be attributed to a number of other variable rather than the divorce itself; for example, poor parenting, which can sometimes result from a break-up.
It is therefore essential that parents seek out reliable divorce lawyers; not only to guide them through the legal process, but also to help them come to terms with the effect the event has on their children.
How to protect children during and after the divorce
Conflict between parents should be avoided when children are present. Kids find it hard to deal with the concept of dealing with split loyalties; they usually love each parent equally. It is especially important not to involve the kids in the arguments, for example by asking them to pass messages to one or other parent.
It is important to give children a clearly defined set of rules and set limits. However, in order for them to grow into well-balanced adults it is also essential to give them love and affection.
Following the divorce, when one or other parent has relocated, it can sometimes be the case that the children, depending on their age, are asked to help with the daily chores. This can be a positive step as the child or children will often respond positively to being given at least some degree of independence and responsibility. The trick is not to ask them to take on an excessive degree of responsibility, particularly when it involves supporting the parent emotionally. It should be remembered that children are children and that adults should seek the support of friends or family when dealing with such issues.
Because young children are unable to properly understand what is happening they may develop the idea that their parents will get back together or that they will be abandoned. It is the job of both parents to offer reassurance that they will always be looked after and are still loved.
There is no quick fix for helping children come to terms with their parents divorcing; it takes time, love effort and reassurance.