Divorced Family

Divorce is never easy on children or their parents. Although there are some differences in research on the permanent impact of divorce on children, all would agree that growing up in a two-parent, positive and happy family increases the likelihood that children will develop into healthy adults. A bad marriage is always stressful for BOTH adults and children, and research can't prove with certainty whether a good divorce is better or worse than a bad marriage. Divorcing parents usually wish to know how to support their children through a divorce and help them adjust as well as possible afterwards. If you're considering a divorce or have already divorced, here are some guidelines that may help you and your children during this difficult time.
  • If there's even a small chance that your marriage may improve with counseling, make the attempt. All marriages go through crises, and many marriages improve with outside help.

  • Even if you conclude that it’s impossible to save your marriage, seek counseling for a smoother divorce. Definitely provide your children with at least some brief counseling. They'll want a safe person to talk to, and talking to either of their parents during this stressful time may cause them to feel "caught in the middle."

  • Both parents should assure the children of their love and explain that the divorce was not caused by any of the children. Parents should also assure the children that they can continue to love both parents and don't have to take sides.

  • Even if you believe the divorce was the fault of the other parent, don't blame the divorce on that parent when speaking to your children. Know that this is difficult to do when you feel angry or rejected.

  • Don't confide in your children about intimate details of the divorce. Your oldest children, particularly, will often wish to take the role of confidant. Your children want the status of adults, but in the long run, treating them like an adult too soon will cause them to feel insecure. They often turn on the confiding parent and become more rebellious than typical during adolescence.

  • Don't encourage your children to say negative things to you about their other parent. They may be tempted to do that in hopes of getting in your good graces. Don't say negative things to your children about their other parent.

  • Emphasize positive achieving aspects of the other parent so that he or she can be a constructive role model. Children will see that person as a role model even if you describe the parent negatively. The more emphasis you put on the negative characteristics of the other parent, the more likely it is that your children will feel helpless to do anything about their own similar negative characteristics. If it's difficult to find positive characteristics about the other parent, don't say anything at all.

  • Children who live with and visit parents in separate homes should have two places where they can learn about work and play. Avoid the image of one work parent and one play parent. Try to make their two home lives as consistent as possible.

  • When you feel angry at your children's behavior, don't remind them that they're like the other parent. That will not help the children with any problem but will probably cause the children to believe they have no other choice but to be like that parent.

  • Don't get your children involved in your financial crises. That will either cause them to feel very anxious, blame the other parent, or see the other parent as the more powerful parent.
  • Don't feel guilty about the divorce. No one is perfect. Guilt has never helped improve parenting skills. Time will heal the feelings of hurt and will put problems into perspective for your children if you and their other parent adjust to living in a reasonable relationship.

  • Try to keep your life going forward. When you adjust well after a divorce, your children will look to you as a role model and will develop confidence in their ability to succeed in life.

  • If the other parent is abusive or reluctant to keep a relationship going with the children, don't force or encourage that negative relationship. It will only result in your children being abused or feeling rejected by the other parent. It’s better to move forward and help the children develop positive relationships with other important adults in their lives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends

©2002 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.