Divorce or no divorce, what’s better when kids are involved?
Considering the impact on children is one of the toughest questions that most parents face when contemplating divorce. It’s proven time and again that life is never same for the kids after moms and dads decide to split up. The emotional scars of divorce can last into adulthood.
There is a lot of controversy about whether kids coming from broken families struggle more academically, have more issues with drug and alcohol abuse, become sexually active at an earlier age, commit crimes or have higher delinquency etc. than those coming from two-parent families. For most children, the parents’ divorce can impact their view of the world and relationships for the rest of their lives.
It’s been seen that kids’ reaction to divorce depends on their ages, personality, the circumstances of separation and the process of divorce. Some of the most common emotions that children experience are shock, guilt, sadness, frustration, anger, or worry. In some cases, they may come out of it better, capable of coping with stress, more adjustable, responsible, tolerant young adults.
Parents play a major part in how kids react to the divorce’ they can help by minimizing the disruption in their lives; protecting them from legal battles, heated argument and blaming; caring for them; and ensuring they feel loved and secured. Involving family, friends or, in some cases, professionals may reduce the impact of the separation.
Breaking The News
It’s the first step into the new life. It’s a loss of stability and can be a completely shocking for kids. There is no one best way to break the news but a bit of preparation by the parents before sharing will be helpful. Understanding the child’s age, temperament and maturity before disclosure will be helpful.
Ideally both parents can convey the same message together. Younger kids need only a few simple words, whereas older kids may need more explanation. The most important message to be conveyed to the children is that the divorce is not their fault and that both parents love and care for them. Kids benefit from reinforcement of this message from time to time.
How Divorce Can Affect Kids
After the initial disclosure, children tend to become curious about how divorce will impact their lives. It may raise a lot of different feelings and questions. It’s imperative to attend to those feelings and answer questions to their satisfaction. Their questions may be around practical things like living arrangements, which parent will be looking after them, who will be paying for their expenses, cooking their meals, or who will take them to their play dates, doctors appointments, and so on.
Different kids may handle the situation differently and at different times. Kids may view this as a loss of a family unit or loss of their family being together. In their eyes, it’s a big loss, and they need time to grieve the loss.
Of course, it’s not just the kids but also adults grieving during this time. It’s beneficial for kids to feel like they have the permission to express their feelings. They need reassurance that such feelings are perfectly OK and understandable. Some may react immediately to the divorce, whereas others may have a delayed reaction. Together they can explore how the parents can make it better and easier for them.
Divorce is no small thing for a child. The stress of reality may manifest itself in forms like regression, lack of sleep, appetite, concentration, mood swings, aggression, fear, anxiety, drop in school performance or impulsive behaviors. Honestly, kids need time to figure out what is really happening to them.
Divorce is obviously a difficult, often painful decision that hopefully isn’t reached lightly, but ultimately two separate, happy parents are ideally better for a child than two parents who are together and miserable.
Kids are resilient, but grit can only take them so far with something as emotionally taxing as divorce. Even when it is ultimately the best option for everyone involved, it’s never an easy way out for anyone.
Two Homes by Claire Masurel
This book for young children covers separation and divorce among parents. Through the lens of spending time separately with both parents, it shows the common goal that the parents love the child irrespective of living in different houses.
Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
This book by the author/illustrator behind the popular Arthur series helps young children to understand divorce. It goes into explaining what divorce means, why it happens, when it happens, and so on.
Divorce is Not the End of the World by Zoe & Evan Stern
A book for children from 9 to 15 years old. This is a great book for kids to understand what happens during parent’s divorce. In the book they talk of the common feelings during divorce.
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