Getting a divorce is undoubtedly a stressful time. It also affects the children. Learn how you can protect the mental health of your children during divorce.
Children will never be immune to the adverse effects of their parent’s divorce. Parents are still unsure; most wonder if their children can be immune to their parent’s separation.
Studies have revealed that all children, regardless of age, are affected by their parents’ separation. They express this in manners that are natural to them at their stage of development.
A few behaviours have been expressed by children affected by parental separation; these include anxiety, high irritability, regression, depression, and non-compliance – to name a few.
These behaviours are not just impacting the relationship the child shares with their parents but also how they perform academically and interact with others in society.
You cannot entirely protect your child from the adverse emotional and mental upheavals caused by divorce. However, you can do a few things to minimise these negative effects on your child’s mental health and help make it easier for them emotionally during the divorce.
Talk to your ex about co-parenting
You cannot be selfish when it comes to parenting your child after divorce, especially since it may have negative effects on their mental state. It is important for both of you to discuss the issue of co-parenting before your divorce is complete. You should not wait for it until you separate. Once you reveal to your child that you are contemplating a divorce, they will have tons of questions for you. They will want to know what changes will occur in the future and how you will be spending time with them.
If you do not address and reply to these questions, your child will be confused and will question your love for them. They might even hold themselves responsible for the divorce. Co-parenting needs to focus on the well-being of your child. You need to make your child feel normal during the process and let them know that they matter to you. You and your spouse should both break the news together and have enough respect for each other.
Avoid bad mouthing your ex in front of your children
Bad-mouthing your co-parent in front of your children can be one of the situations that bother them immensely. These situations are common during divorce as you both have a raw experience and are going through immense stress and pain, making it difficult to control getting into any conflict with your ex. If you badmouth your ex in front of your children, they might feel ashamed, confused, and stressed.
Badmouthing your spouse, especially if you’re considering a divorce, can negatively affect the result of the divorce. Badmouthing a spouse can result in modifications to custody, and one of the parents might even end up receiving a restraining order. You might also be held in contempt of court if you make derogatory comments against your spouse. You may also have to pay alimony due to causing your spouse and child emotional distress.
You have to put the mental and physical well-being of your child first. So don’t make them feel bad by losing control over what you have to say to them.
Don’t put your children in the middle
Your child is undoubtedly a victim of the divorce, but you must try to protect them from participating in all the situations it brings on. Many parents involve their children while negotiating various issues; this is a big mistake. You should refrain from using your kids as mediators on such occasions so that you can manipulate them to swing the result in your favour.
Many parents mistake putting their kids in the middle in such a way thinking that doing this is acting in their best interest. Instead, you are disturbing their mental health. Putting them in the middle makes them feel torn apart between you two and devastated, ultimately losing trust in both of you. So find out what you want from your divorce, but don’t use your child as a means to get it.
Don’t mislead your children with lies
Most parents don’t share every detail of the process with their kids, which is actually a good thing. They are better off knocking as few of the gruesome details as possible. Sparing the details to improve their mental health is not the same as lying about how the divorce will affect family relationships. You may be trying to protect your child’s emotional well-being by telling them a white lie, but it will ultimately end up hurting them more if you cannot live up to what you promised.
When you cannot deliver your false commitment, your child will start to blame themselves for it and get stressed out. So promise something to your child only if you plan on or can deliver it. You need to be honest with them regarding the situation as much as possible to avoid stress, heartbreak, and depression from settling in on your child.
Prioritise your child’s feelings
Your divorce proceeding might be a respectful and peaceful separation, but it still is very stressful for your child. You and your spouse are responsible for the mental and emotional well-bieng of your children, so you might want to filter the information you are sharing with them regarding your divorce. You should also have conversations with your child and ask them how they are taking your separation.
Share your pain, but don’t badmouth your spouse. Avoid putting all the blame on your spouse. Encourage your children to share their emotions, let them share how they feel about the situation. Keep this process ongoing till the divorce is finalised.
Getting a divorce is tough for your child too as much as it is stressful for your mental health. So try to spare them the stress as much as possible by implementing the tips mentioned in this article. Hopefully, it will be better for all of you at the end.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.