Helping Children of Divorce Navigate Changing Family Dynamics

What Is Anxiety?

Almost half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce or separation. Approximately one in two children will see their parents break up. While divorce is common and can be a path forward for familial healing, dissolution of marriage impacts not only the couple involved but also any children the couple have together.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Children of all ages are incredibly perceptive and can identify stressors within the family, including marital strife that results in divorce. While the impacts of stressors can manifest differently from child to child and through developmental stages, it is important for parents navigating this difficult time to also provide support, understanding, and a safe space for children to process their feelings around this event as well. Some children respond to divorce by internalizing the grief and blaming themselves for any conflict that arises. Others may illustrate changes in other areas of their lives such as lowered academic performance, withdrawing from social relationships, difficulty focusing, or other behavior concerns. In addition, a wide variety of emotions are common such as confusion, sadness, anger, and guilt. However your child is responding, it is valid – and healing takes time.

Ways to Support Children of Divorce

While divorce can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience for any family, parents and caregivers can support their children in adapting to this new normal in a plethora of ways. It is important to stay involved in your children’s lives which may look like continuing to show up to important events, scheduling one on one time together, and allowing space to allow the child to share their feelings and experiences openly and honestly in a safe environment. While divorce proceedings can be incredibly draining for those involved, it is vital to still prioritize the childrens’ needs so they feel important, cared for, and loved.

Co-parenting throughout the divorce process and after the divorce is finalized is also crucial. Be mindful of when and how conflict between each parent is managed and create healthy boundaries so children do not take on any roles or responsibilities in the divorce itself which can lead to shame, guilt, and parentified children. This also extends to being supportive of time spent with the other parent and also refraining from speaking negatively of the other parent in front of or to your child.

Change is difficult for everyone, and children especially may need more time to adapt. It is imperative to exercise patience as children settle into new routines, and it is also beneficial to continue other routines and structures that need not change within your child’s life. Some examples of routine are consistent morning and bedtime routines, continued engagement with school activities, and even upholding chores and responsibilities. This can provide much needed stability and a sense of feeling grounded and secure despite other aspects of life being altered.

In addition, you as the parent also deserve care and support. Prioritize time to rest, recharge, and return to past joys and comforts. Model healthy and productive coping tools such as expressing emotions through creative outlets and seeking out your support system when you need help. If you or your child are needing additional aid, consider seeking professional counseling services or joining a support group to make this transition as smooth and healing as possible

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