6 STEPS TO SAFEGUARD YOUR CHILD’S EMOTIONAL WELLBEING DURING AND AFTER DIVORCE
This is Part 2 of my series About Divorce. This post has to do with how to care for your children during divorce. I’ve devised six steps for parents to use to safeguard their child(ren)’s emotional wellbeing during and after divorce. These are drawn from evidence based research on the effects of divorce on children. Divorce does not have to be devastating. Instead, we can see it as a transition.
Many people have moral qualms about divorce, that it is wrong. This blog isn’t intended to address the morality of divorce. If you have already made the decision to divorce, and you have children, here are some practical tips to use. The intent is to acknowledge that even in divorce, during this time of transition, there are things you can do that will impact the ability of your child to move through the divorce and develop into a well-adjusted adult.
- Take care of yourself in order to take care of your child(ren). When you are emotionally & physically fit, your children are also likely to be this way. What do you do to take care of yourself? For some people, this involves physical exercise, time with supportive family and friends, time alone, spiritual practices. You deserve to be healthy and happy!
- Communicate and respond effectively with your child(ren). What to say, how to say it, and when to say it, affects your child’s emotional health. Be mindful and intentional about communicating with your child and be sure he or she is mature enough to receive the information. Be aware of behaviors that may occur when children learn of your divorce.
- Communicate effectively amidst conflict. It is NOT healthy for children to be exposed to their parent’s conflict. Do your best to shield your child(ren) from your anger/displeasure with your coparent. Children report that parental conflict is the greatest source of stress for them during divorce.
- Respond appropriately to your child(ren)’s developmental needs. What a 2-year old needs when her parents are divorcing is very different from what a 10-year old, or 14-year needs. Do not rely on your child to fulfill your emotional needs or give advice. While it is admirable for them to have a sense of compassion and love for you, maintain a clear boundary so that you are doing more caretaking than your child is.
- Be flexible and optimistic about the future. Know that as your children grow, their needs change. This means their relationships with you and their other parent will change, especially if either of you remarries. A flexible parental agreement makes these natural changes easier for your child. Plan your future after divorce with your children in mind. What is best for them?
- Move forward in new relationships with intent. Divorce affects many more people that just the immediate family. Yours and your child’s friend group may change. You may change jobs or careers. You may wish to date again. Consider the new relationships in your new life with intention and attention to your child’s needs.
There are many, many other ways to take care of your children and safeguard them from the emotional turbulence caused by divorce. You are probably doing much of what I’ve outlined above. Kudos to you! Whether the divorce is something you want or not, it is still a huge disruption in your life and in your children’s lives. The more tools you have to draw from in your parenting tool box, the happier you all will be.
If you would like some professional guidance during this transition, please do not hesitate to give me a call at 512-593-0583. I am happy to offer a short telephone consultation.