Most parents who go through divorce worry that the breakup of their marriage will negatively affect their children. The research on this is mixed, but much of it points out that it is the conflict, rather than the divorce itself, that can harm children. Parents can do their kids a service by focusing on minimizing the conflict between themselves and the other parent – or at least keeping it out of the kids’ view. When that doesn’t happen, parents should be ready to help their kids process their feelings.
Keeping conflict low depends in part on your attitude
According to some research, conflict between their parents can damage children’s self-esteem and sense of security. However, research also shows that children are resilient and can recover from parental conflict if the parents are able to resolve the conflict.
Once you have committed to divorcing, it’s time to stop trying to address your marital problems. You can’t. That time has passed, but many people remain stuck there.
Instead, focus on creating a parenting situation that is in your kids’ best interest. That usually means solid, dependable contact between each parent and each child, along with continued relationships with extended family members. Your kids need to know that both of their parents still love them and still plan to be there for them.
Therefore, you should avoid disparaging your kids’ other parent. You should not undermine their authority or give your kids the impression that you think the other parent is a bad person. When kids hear one parent’s complaints, they often feel pressured to pick sides in the conflict, and that’s the last thing you want them to do.
Protect your kids by making sure they never hear denigrating remarks from you, even if their other parent may not do the same.
Responding to a child’s distress
Your kids may come to you with questions about the divorce or their other parent. This can put you in an awkward position if you aren’t prepared. Working with your ex, develop a mutual story that honestly explains why you are divorcing without blaming each other. Be age appropriate and avoid sharing any details.
Help your kids express and understand their emotions in a healthy way. Validate whatever feelings they are experiencing, even if those feelings make you uncomfortable. Listen carefully to what they have to say, regardless of whether it’s comfortable for you to hear. Tell them that “big feelings” are normal and manageable with talking honestly.
In Arizona, courts will generally work to maximize each parent’s time with the children. That means you’ll be co-parenting with your ex for years to come. Your attitude can make all the difference.