Among the many concerns for parents who are planning to divorce, the effects on children remain at the very top of the list. While living arrangements and custody will have a profound influence on the child’s daily habits, there are often deeper concerns regarding the emotional responses their child will experience because of the divorce. Many children of divorce go through a grieving process at the loss of the family life they had always known, with some experiencing differing levels of depression.
For parents worried about the emotional effects of divorce on their children, the goal should be to provide direct and consistent support as the child works to understand the new family dynamic. The following advice is offered for parents to employ when trying to help their child through the changes brought on by divorce:
Reassure the child’s sense of security: One of the major fears children of divorce face is that the family will fall apart. Children may worry that once their parents separate, they will no longer be part of a family. Parents must assuage these fears early and often, and remind their child how loved they are and that their family will be different, but it is not going away.
Maintain a connection to the child: Both parents should make efforts to maintain a strong relationship with the child on an individual level. This effort will give the child confidence that will encourage them to believe that their new family dynamic will involve two independent parent relationships that are loving, supportive, and strong. To that end, each parent should be openly supportive of the child’s relationship to the other parent.
Be consistent with discipline: It may be counterintuitive to consider discipline as a reassuring measure, but it is true. Being able to depend on consistent expectations allows children to maintain a sense of equilibrium that supports their understanding of the world, their family, and their place in both. When children split their time between two homes, having one strict parent and one lax parent can be confusing for children who naturally test the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Clear and constant boundaries provide the stability necessary to safely grow and learn from mistakes.
Remain in tune at each stage: Personalities aside, children respond to the stresses of divorce at different developmental stages. Younger children may need more physical affection. Older children may respond to honest conversation. One thing to keep in mind with older children and teens is that while moodiness can seem unavoidably age-related, it is important for parents to be aware of any worrisome behaviors that might indicate depression or tendencies toward self-harm.
Parent as a team: Parents should endeavor to parent peacefully with the clear purpose of doing what is best for the child. They should lean on the shared goal of presenting a unified parental front. Using the child as a pawn or putting the child in the middle of adult disputes is damaging and against the child’s best interests.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Help Clients with Children Navigate Divorce
Having legal representation in the divorce process can help ensure that your interests and concerns for your children are considered in all negotiations. The lawyers at Burnham Douglass have the experience to remain sensitive to those concerns while seeking to achieve a fair divorce agreement that is best for your family. Contact us online or call 856-751-5505 to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Northfield and Marlton, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, and Gloucester County.