Children look at the world differently than adults. Much of what they understand about divorce depends on their age. A toddler will not understand as much as a 5-year-old understands. A school-age boy will not handle his emotions the same way his teenage sister will.
For some parents, talking to their children about the decision to divorce can be one of the most difficult challenges to face. It can be very helpful for both parents to discuss ahead of time what information they are going to share with their children and how they are going to respond to their children’s questions.
Approximately 50% of the couples who marry today will end up divorced, and almost half of all children in the U.S. have seen or will see their parents divorce. In marriages that are empty, conflict-ridden, or even abusive, this is the right decision, but it is still only the better of two painful alternatives. The children, who have no control over the decision to divorce, are often the ones most affected by this decision to reorganize the family.
The welfare of their children is of paramount importance to divorcing parents. They want to know what to do for the children to lessen the impact of the divorce on them. They want to know how to reduce the chances that their children will suffer negative consequences. The parents’ intentions are admirable, but the follow-through is often compromised.
Virtually all children wrestle with internal conflicts and upset feelings after their parents separate and it is not uncommon for children to develop temporary social, emotional, behavioral and/or academic problems during this initial adjustment period.
Over the years there have been a plethora of studies and research projects designed to examine the effect of parental divorce on children. Researchers and health care specialists have tried to answer such questions as whether it is better for the children if parents avoid divorce even if it means living in a “bad marriage”, the classic example of “staying together for the children”, or if divorce is a better alternative for all involved.
“You are a bad parent and I don’t want you in my life any more.” Most parents have heard this from their children and felt free to ignore it. Unfortunately for some divorced parents, this threat becomes reality.
Through The Eyes of Children: Healing Stories for Children of Divorce is a collection of fable-like tales designed to be read to children by their parents, therapists, or other concerned adults. The stories help children understand and cope with their parents’ separation and the fallout from their parents’ conflict with each other.
The post divorce relationship between parents can take different forms and can change over time. There may be a friendly relationship with easy and frequent communication. There may be an easy flow around matters that involve the children. If this is the case, talking together and sharing information regarding school matters happens easily. In this case, one parent can be designated as the primary contact person for the school and then, that parent readily shares the information with the other parent. There can be comfort for both parents to attend events like Back to School Night and parent-teacher conferences together.
Peaceful, consistent and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting – even though it may seem absolutely impossible. It all begins with your mindset.