Every year, many children across the world have to face family disruption, which takes a toll on their mental health and largely influences their lifestyle. It is very hard for them to perceive this event in their lives. It’s hard for the parents, but for children, it’s even harder. They hardly have any coping mechanisms to resort to.
Although in Australia the divorce rate has decreased substantially, it’s still a very common issue that children are exposed to. And, as they cannot cope with it on their own, they may experience the following effects of divorce:
- They are more prone to develop physical health and mental health complications. As children get exposed to a lot of stress, it inevitably impacts them, taking a toll on their health.
- Their academic performance may start to suffer. The effects of stress influence cognitive abilities, which, together with health complications can impact the way a child performs at school.
- It may be harder for them to adapt socially. Divorce impacts children on a psychological level. Thus, it may lead to low confidence, trust issues, and social awkwardness.
How can you avoid such things? What you as a parent should do to not scar your child emotionally?
The answer lies in smart co-parenting in order to save your child from stress during the divorce. And here’s how you do it.
- Answer Their Questions with Honesty
Honesty is the best policy. Of course, you, as a parent, experience a lot of hurt and negative emotions, but don?t let them overrun and impact the things you’re telling your child.
It?s very difficult to tell your child about the divorce. But this conversation is necessary to help prepare your child and yourself for this long and stressful period. Here’s what psychologist Vikki Stark recommends when it comes to telling your child about the divorce:
- Keep your emotions at bay. No matter how many negative feelings you have, your child doesn?t have to experience them with you.
- Before the conversation, try to see this situation from your child’s perspective. This will give you a clue, how to bring this topic up.
- After you tell them, tune in to observe and acknowledge their emotions.
It is important for your child to know the truth. And, of course, your child will have many questions, like ‘Why are you doing this?’, ‘Who am I going to live with?’, ‘Does mommy/daddy not love me anymore?’ Without any exaggeration, answer these questions honestly.
- Acknowledge the Emotion
It is important neither to downplay nor to overplay your emotions. For your child, this situation is very serious and will leave a mark on their psyche, so don’t deny their emotions and your feelings as well.
Your child will feel a variety of emotions: fear, frustration, sadness, and even anger. Kati Morton, a therapist and a YouTube influencer, recommends talking about these emotionsand acknowledging that you feel the same way. This will give you and your child power to cope with this and will reduce stress
I?ve seen parents run away from their emotions, jumping into relationships immediately after getting divorced. Although this lets them run away from the problem for a while, this sends an unclear message to their child, who sees the example of their parent and don’t know how to deal with the pain. They are pretty much left on their own.
- Don’t Squabble in front of Your Child
Learning how to co-parent after the divorce should start during the divorce. And here’s when parents, hearing each other’s sides of the story, may start to argue in front of their child. Here’s what is recommended for parents to think about in such situations:
- No matter what’s going on in your lives, during the divorce try to put your child’s mental health first. After all, every parent wants to see their child happy and healthy.
- Arguing in front of your child can potentially cultivate hatred towards the parent. If you cannot contain your emotions, create a situation, in which your child will not be involved.
- Having arguments in front of your child can cause trust issues and long-term confidence crisis. ‘90% of children experience low self-esteem and stress that may lead to depression when their parents go through a divorce’, says Michael Parker, a statistician at Flatfy. Arguing in front of your child can engrain these emotions even deeper.
The same rules apply to parents who pit their kids against their former spouses. No matter who your child ends up living with, cultivating the feeling of hatred towards a parent will only worsen the stress, can lead to anxiety and chronic depression.
A tip for parents: if you don’t know how to talk to children about the divorce, at least don’t make a monster out of your former spouse. Remember: you loved each other once. Your children don’t have to suffer just because it changed. You must love and take care of your child regardless of what’s happened to your marriage.
Finally, let your child grieve. They had the whole image of the future of your happy family that is now fading away. Understand what your child is going through and try to get as involved as possible. Be mindful about this situation and co-parent to support your child’s mental and physical health.
Kate is a passionate writer who likes sharing her thoughts and experience with the readers. Currently, she works as a real estate agent at https://flatfy.ro/. She likes everything related to traveling and new countries.