Your divorce doesn’t have to negatively impact your kids. Studies have shown that children with divorced parents can have the same positive outcomes seen in peers with married parents. But specific behaviors on your part can make it easier for them to thrive. Your kids need your help and commitment to keep their needs at the center during your divorce. Here are some things that will help your kids through divorce, for their benefit and long term happiness.
- Work on getting along with your ex
It’s not divorce itself that causes problems for your children, it’s fighting between parents that results in negative outcomes in the long term for children in divorced families. High conflict between parents causes children to struggle with their self-esteem as well as increasing the likelihood of anxiety and depression. When parents are fighting, it forces a child to choose sides and this can cause internal struggles and eventually, mental health struggles.
- Speak respectfully about your ex
When you bad mouth the other parent, your children internalize this criticism. It may feel like it’s only about your ex, but your children contain part of you and part of your ex! No matter the problems you’ve had with your ex, your child loves them and it’s hurtful to them when you speak negatively about their parent. It’s natural to be struggling through your own emotions, but your children don’t have to be pulled into it. It may be difficult but you can speak diplomatically and respectfully about their other parent in front of them.
- See your ex as an important person in your child’s life
It’s helpful to realize that your ex is an important person in your child’s life. If your ex is doing well, this is going to positively affect your child and that’s reason enough to wish the best for them. Working to increase your empathy for your ex can diffuse the negativity and anger you may have for them, which will also benefit your children. Get support from a divorce support group, a divorce coach or a therapist so that you can process your own feelings and remember that your ex is a human walking through a difficult time.
- Support your ex’s relationship with your children
It’s tempting to get territorial about your children, but keeping your kids away from your ex will usually have negative consequences for them. You married your ex for a reason and he or she has positive traits. Try to remember some of those and acknowledge that these strengths are valuable to your children. Occasionally, in divorce, one parent cannot provide a safe environment for the children. But in most situations, your children will benefit from having a strong relationship with both parents where they can gain different strengths from each of you.
It’s normal to be worried about how divorce will impact your kids. The good news is that there’s plenty of research to show what you can do to help them thrive. I hope this encourages you with some proven ways to help your kids bounce back from divorce. Taking these steps isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it to help your kids thrive in the short and long term!
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.