Regardless of personal values, community standards, or religious teachings, divorce is a fact of life in the modern society of the United States of America. According to the US divorce statistics, every year, over 1 million children under the age 18 are involved in divorce as one out of every two marriages today ends in the courtroom.
The number of children affected by divorce in the United States has increased in direct proportion to the number of such cases in the country. Research estimates show the ratio of children living in single parent households (compared to two parent families) has risen from about 20% in the early 1960’s up to nearly 50% in the last decade.
We all know that a conflict-ridden marriage is not in the best interest of kids. At times it is better for kids to live with one parent than to live with both parents amidst conflict, abuse, or both. Sometimes, ending a marriage is the best course of action but not every time. As children are more sensitive in nature, parents often worry about impacts of their decision on their children and how to tell children about divorce. When it comes to divorce for parents, the most difficult part is to break the news to their kids.
Here are some useful tips that can help parents and children during the first conversation together about divorce:
- Never keep the issue of divorce a secret from your kids as they also need time to adjust.
- Always disclose the news to kids together as a parent and it will be better if there is a mutual consent between you and your spouse regarding what to say and how much to say to your children.
- When you tell things related to your decision, always keep things simple and straight-forward.
- No child wants to be separated from their parents and hence it is important to tell them that this is not happending due to them.
- Make them ready for the sad and upsetting changes that will soon happen in their life.
- Reassure them that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
- Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with them and don’t start blaming or arguing with each other in front of them.
Well, it is very obvious that parents may be preoccupied with their own problems, but they need to handle the emotions and feelings of their kids in a proper manner. This is essential as divorce can be misinterpreted by kids and it can result in lasting impact on their minds. With proper care and attention, parents can minimize the impact of such a decision on their children.
Specific short-term effects of divorce on children:
It has been found that divorce can have many short termed effects on children such as anger, sadness, depression, opposition, impulsivity, aggression, non-compliance, perceived parental loss, interpersonal conflict, economic hardship, life stress, less parental supervision, less consistent discipline, more negative sanctions, lower academic achievement, acting out, lower self-concept, social adjustment difficulty, increased dependency and so on. Many of these short-term effects can have adverse impact in the overall development of kids. The intensity and longevity of these short termed effects depends on plenty of things such as:
- The way parents try to resolve post-divorce conflict and anger.
- The role played by the custodial parent in making a child happy and adjusts to new changes in life.
- The relationship between the non-custodial parent with a child. A child needs the love and affection of both the parents.
- Personality characteristics of a child and the ability to cope with news things in life.
- The quality of support systems in the life of a child and how it is being used.
- The age and sex of the child as younger child will have more adjustments problems as compared to teenagers.
Long-term effects of divorce on children:
Just like short-termed effects, there are also some long termed effects of divorce on children. At times strong feelings are there at a subconscious level during the childhood, and such strong feelings related to divorce may emerge at later point in life. There can be persistence of anger towards the parent who had initiated the divorce, intensity of longing for the absence of visiting parent, persistence of wish to be the part of the pre-divorce family and so on. Such kind of feelings can lead to various problems in the lives of children in future such as:
- At times, children suffer from depression due to the absence of love and care of one parent. For a single parent it is difficult at times to see the sufferings of his or her children and this ultimately leads of depression.
- Such children are keen to have poorer physical health as compared to children from intact families.
- Long termed emotional problems that such children suffer are fears of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and rejection. There are also anger, resentment, and hostility along with low life satisfaction.
- Socially, such children show poor relationship status with other people, and have less faith in the institution of marriage.
- They also tend to become more conservative and also adopt more traditional views of how marriage and family ought to be.
Important Role of Parents:
When divorce is inevitable or is the best decision for family members, parents need to work together to help minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children.
- Parents can help kids to resolve divorce-related anxieties, confusion, and blame. Make they realize that they are not the reason behind divorce and there are things that they will understand once they grow up.
- Always assure them repeatedly that they will be safe. And let them know both of your will continue to provide love and care to them in the best of their ability.
- They can even help children to express their feelings regarding your plan. It can be anger, hatred and so on. Remember your kids will need help in learning safe and healthy ways to express their feelings. Once kids get to express their feelings it will become easier for you to handle the situation.
- Both you and your spouse need to meet the expectations regarding the visitation and custody rights issued by the court. The parent-child relationship should always be there no matter what.
- Parents should work on establishing support systems of friends and relatives so that their kids can always have someone to talk about their feelings and emotions. At times kids are more comfortable to discuss things with others rather than their parents.
- Always make them know that they are loved. Show them your love through words and actions as they need to know that the love you have for them will last forever.
- Do not expose kids to casual relationships with members of the opposite sex. If you plan to date someone and you are serious about the relationship, introduce the person later on.
- Even if you consider re-marriage or you want to start a new family, always remember your responsibilities towards your children. For them you will always be their Mom or Dad.
To conclude, in the US today there are many children who are burdened by vivid memories of the marital break-up, by feelings of sadness, continuing resentment at parents, and a sense of deprivation. So, always think about your kids before making the decision to terminate your marriage. If divorce is unavoidable, as a parent it is your job to make sure that your kids are not going through a difficult time. Make the experience least destructive for them in order to avoid negative impacts of divorce on them.