Did your divorce take you by surprise? If you generally had a comfortable and stable life prior to your divorce, you need to keep a close eye on your children in the months and years following your split from your spouse. They may be struggling harder with the divorce than other kids.
Divorce has become so common these days that almost every kid knows another kid whose parents are divorced. Most of the time, children seem to handle the shift in their circumstances fairly well -- far better than a lot of people expect.
However, children who come from advantaged households -- homes that are less likely on a statistical level to be broken -- end up having a harder time coping with their parents' divorce and the aftermath than kids who come from homes where there has always been a lot of marital instability.
Basically, when a divorce blindsides the adults, it also does the same to the kids. Children who have witnessed the marital strife of their parents are more emotionally and mentally prepared for the upheaval of divorce than kids who haven't. Family instability comes as a shock -- and the result is children who fare poorly in school and socially.
So, what can you do to minimize the impact of divorce on your children?
- Communicate early with your child about the upcoming changes. Don't wait until right before the moving van shows up.
- Encourage your child to remain connected with their other parent. Even if you have primary physical custody (rather than shared custody) because of your ex-spouse's work schedule or some other reason, make use of electronic communication and encourage a sense of closeness with that parent.
- Consider family therapy, if your ex-spouse is willing. Even though you're divorced, you're still a family because you have children between you that may be struggling.
- Consider individual therapy for your children so that they can talk over their feelings in a safe space.
- Minimize the impact of your divorce in your children's lives as much as possible. It may be necessary to put your own goals on hold for a while until you're sure your children are coping.
As you work out your custody and visitation schedule, keep these concepts in mind. Even if you and your ex aren't on the same page anywhere else, work together for the sake of your children's future.