A divorce can be a particularly hard time for children as they face the uncertainty and confusion surrounding a split between their parents. Parents can greatly help their children deal with a divorce by ensuring the child feels supported and making sure they know this is not the end of their relationship.
Child custody is unfortunately one of the most litigated aspects of many divorces. Children often become caught in the middle of arguments between parents. The outcome of a child custody battle may create a rift between the parent and child, and it is psychologically damaging to children to be forced into a situation where they must choose between parents.
Many of these problems can be solved by using mediation instead of litigation to resolve custody disagreements. Mediation forces parents to come together and work together to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of child and works for both parents. Showing a child that their parents still have the ability to work together for their benefit can go long way to making them feel better about the divorce.
Parents still have the full right to use an attorney, like the professionals at Divorce Matters, during mediation, and they should have legal representation. An attorney ensures that the agreement is acceptable and can keep a parent advised of his or her rights during the process.
Focus on the Advantages
Children are likely to focus mainly on the losses associated with a divorce. They may be losing contact with a parent, and they may be forced to move. Even the easiest of divorces will involve losing the unified family structure the child felt comfortable in.
Parents can help a child cope by focusing on how the new arrangement may be better. Children often get to double many of the fun things in their lives when they have a split parent home. For example, they may get to celebrate two birthdays or have multiple holiday celebrations.
Usually, something led up to a divorce, and children are often sensitive to this. They probably have had to endure watching or listening to their parents fight and argue. For older children, it can be beneficial to explain that separation is one way to stop this from happening, and that the parents may be able to provide a warmer and quieter home by being apart than by being together. This can be something difficult for children to understand or accept, but talking about it plainly can help. If a child is especially confused or is unwilling to talk or listen, it may be beneficial for them to see a professional counselor to help them through the process.
Listen to the Child
Children may feel caught up in a divorce and feel like they are losing control. This can manifest differently depending on how old the child is, but it is very likely to cause behavior problems or issues at school. Parents can greatly help a child by talking with them and especially listening to them. It is important to allow the child to express how they feel about the divorce and what they are worried about. It can be comforting for them to know that their parents are still there to support them, and that the divorce is not taking away their access to parents who care about them.
In child custody involving older children, the wishes of the child are also taken into account in court. It can be extra beneficial to listen to the wishes of an older child and include what they think and how they feel into legal discussions of custody.
While few if any divorces are easy for children, they can be made as harmless as possible. Sometimes a divorce is beneficial to a child even if they don’t see that at first. The most important thing parents can do is ensure their child continues to feel supported and that parents continue to act toward the child just like the supportive parents they have always been.