How to Avoid the Negative Impact of Separation and Divorce on Kids
It should come as no surprise that children of divorce experience difficulty when they are faced with ongoing conflict and animosity between their parents. One of the outcomes of prolonged conflict for children of divorce is a compromised ability to function. The literature abounds with studies of children, youth and young adults who experience depression, anxiety, anger, reduced grades, low self esteem and difficulty dealing with stress, when their parents are not able to reasonably resolve their post marital issues. No parent wants these types of outcomes for their children.
So, what can you do to reduce the chance of these negative outcomes? Clinical psychologist, Lori Rappaport suggests that even when it is extremely difficult for separating parents to get along with each other, whenever they interact, they should keep the three following points in mind.
Be supportive of each other’s parenting and avoid undermining the other parent’s authority in front of your children.
Do not fight in front of your kids. Do not involve your children in your disputes and avoid trying to get the children to understand or agree with your particular position or viewpoint.
Do not expect your children to make a choice between one or the other parent. Children should be encouraged to have a close relationship with both parents.*
You may have read the above three points and be saying to yourself, “This is well and good, but obviously you have not met my ex. My ex is impossible to deal with and I cannot bear the thought of having to deal with her abominable behaviour.” Well, I get it. No-one says this will be easy. In fact, working hard to keep the peace with your ex may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do, but it can be done, if you are able to remind yourself that your focus should be on the best interest of your kids.
Finally, there is no shame in seeking help and support as you walk through this process. In fact, I encourage my clients to reach out to professionals who can support and guide them through the process. For example, it can be very helpful to work with a therapist who can assist you in dealing with the emotional impact of your separation.
*The assumption in this article is that there is no abuse occurring in either the parent-to-parent relationship or the child-to-parent relationship.