Parents cannot eradicate the upheaval and upset their divorce may cause their kids, but there are things they can do to help them cope.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that 33,749 couples across the state got divorced or had their marriages annulled in 2016 alone. While the breakup of a marriage may be trying for the adults involved, divorce may be particularly upsetting for the children. Although parents cannot completely alleviate the upset that the end of their marriage may cause their children, there are things they can do to help them adjust to this type of major life change.
Allow children their reactions
Not all children react in the same way or in the same timeframe to the news that their parents are getting divorced. Some may initially express feelings of anger or sadness, while others may seem ambivalent and instead only show concern for how the split will affect their day-to-day lives. This may include asking who they will live with, whether they will have to change schools and how the parenting-time schedule will work. It is important that parents reassure their kids that their feelings are normal, and encourage them to share their emotions as openly as possible.
Consistency, consistency, consistency
Their parents’ marriage coming to an end may make some children feel as though their worlds have been turned upside down. While they may not be aware of it themselves, this may cause them to crave and need structure even more than normal. As such, it is suggested that parents try to maintain their children’s routines as much as possible during and after a divorce. Additionally, they should attempt to keep the same rules in both parents’ homes and stick to them. Relaxing the rules or completely altering kids’ schedules may lead to insecurities, and inhibit, rather than support, their coping and adjustment to the changes.
Keep the kids out of adult matters
As parents work through the issues that must be settled during a divorce, it may lead to adult discussions or arguments. While this is to be expected, it may cause problems for children’s adjustment if it takes place in front of them. Thus, parents are advised to talk about difficult matters, like child support or alimony, over the phone or when their kids are not around. Further, it is recommended that people refrain from talking badly about their exes in front of their children, asking their kids for information about their other parents or otherwise using their children against their former spouses.
Ask for help
Given time and the support they need, many children rebound from their parents’ divorce and move forward. In some cases, however, kids may need additional help dealing with their feelings and the changes. Should children show signs of distress or seem to otherwise be struggling to cope, parents may consider using the services of a professional, such as their kids’ pediatrician or a counselor. It may also be helpful for people to clue their children’s teachers in to what is going on so that they can aid in monitoring how they are adjusting.
Without contention or complications, Pennsylvania divorces may be challenging enough for families to get through and move on from. However, when the process is drawn out, it may be even more traumatizing for those involved and cause lasting fractures within the family. Therefore, those who are considering a divorce or whose spouses have already filed may find it of benefit to consult with an attorney. A lawyer may not only explain their options and the legal process, but also aid them in negotiating and resolving their cases.