Children in Divorce
It is estimated that almost 25% of children whose parents go through a divorce experience some level of long-term behavioral and or emotional problems. This compares to approximately 10% of children of otherwise similar circumstances whose parents remain together. It is estimated that up to one third of parents simply cannot or will not work out satisfactory parenting arrangements due to the unresolved conflict between the parents and the ill-will that they bear for each other. And this can have significant impacts of children in divorce.
A very typical pattern is for each parent to assume total responsibility for the child for the time that that parent has the child, totally ignoring the other parent. As the ill will between the adults begins to dissipate, as it often will, a more cooperative period begins. The parents begin to communicate with each other, and they begin collaborating and working together for the benefit of the child or children involved.
As time goes on and anger dissipates, parents may develop some version of “cooperative parenting.” In this arrangement, parents communicate directly and in a business-like manner regarding the children and co-parenting schedules. Marriage and family therapists can be helpful to families as they formulate or define their post-divorce parenting relationships.
It is of vital importance that the child is not made to be a partisan in the war between the parents. He or she must never be asked to “spy” on one parent for the benefit of the other. Children must not be made to choose between mother and father. And, most important of all, no child must ever be allowed to feel responsible for the divorce. The best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen is for the parent to never, never argue about the children in earshot of them.
To the extent possible, both parents must present a united front to the child. They must refrain from fighting their battles, legal or otherwise, in front of the child. One parent should not attempt to drive a wedge between the other parent and the child, and never discuss issues such as child support or alimony within earshot of the child.
It is also important to encourage the children to discuss what they themselves are feeling about the separation. As a parent it is essential that you encourage them to speak their minds, but you should guard against mixing it in with your own damaged feelings. And, this must be an ongoing process, because as time goes by, the nature of the kids’ concerns and feelings will change as they mature.
As it turns out, in the vast majority of cases, children tend to stay with their mothers and live in the same home that they lived in during the time of their parents’ marriage. Being the child of divorced parents is no longer the stigma it once was, especially because that presently, so many children are being raised by never-married, single mothers. And, surprisingly, many studies now show that children who are raised by their mother alone are doing better socially than children raised in stepfamilies.