Divorce is ranked at the top of the list of stressful life events and is never easy for parents or children. Children can do well when they have good relationships with both parents. Parents do not need to be married or living in the same house in order to raise healthy, well adjusted children.
As a parent, your goal is to help your children adjust to this big upheaval in their lives, to comfort them, and to let them know that they are loved. In the best case scenario, three things occur.
1) The family remains a family. You will always be a family even though you are now divorced. Whether it is comfortable or not, you will be attending birthdays, school events, sport activities, graduations, weddings, etc. together. Being divorced does not mean you are no longer a family.
2) The negative effects on children are minimized. Children rely on their home environment for stability and comfort in order for them to develop emotionally. Children benefit from emotionally stable parents. When parents fight in front of their children, it causes a lot of stress, instability, fear and anger for them. Speak only positively about your ex-spouse, and keep your children out of conflict during the divorce.
3) Both ex-spouses integrate the divorce into their lives in a healthy way. Speaking positively of one another helps children cope with divorce in a much healthier way. Discussing adult topics needs to be done in private and not in the presence of your children. Remember that your children love you both and do not want to choose sides or get in the middle of your differences.
Divorce affects everyone in the family, but can be especially difficult for the children. We don't always know what children are experiencing because they do not want to add to the problem that already exists and often refrain from sharing their feelings. Frequently, they feel responsible as though they caused the divorce. It’s important to reassure them that you both love them and that they are not at fault.
Villa Pinedo, an organization that encourages children of divorced parents to share their experiences and support each other, helps make adults aware of what goes on in their minds and hearts. Its goal is for the children of divorced parents to be just as happy as all other children.
The organization has drawn up several open letters to help parents become more aware of what is happening to children of divorce. The letters are written by children and offer their recommendations for divorced or separated parents. These are heartfelt, honest requests directly from children who have been affected by divorce.
- Fight in front of us;
- Say nasty things about each other;
- Make us the messenger;
- Ignore one another;
- Ask us to spy on a parent and report back;
- Share the details of your divorce with us.
The idea of cooperating with our former partner in any area may seem like an impossible job. However, when you have children it is a job that has to be done. Many parents have been quite successful, over time, in creating a partnership focused only on parenting issues. The new relationship looks and feels very different.
At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of professionals who specialize in working with families and individuals going through transition. We work with families going through a separation, divorce as well as blended families. You may visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com, or Facebook, or call 908-322-0112. We are available day, evening and weekend hours.