The emotional aspects of a divorce on the children can be easily overlooked by parents who are more concerned about the impact it is having on their own lives. If you are contemplating divorce or a divorce proceeding has already been initiated, seek advice from a Boston divorce lawyer who can counsel you not only about the legal issues involved, but about how the divorce is affecting your children.
In a survey conducted by a British parenting organization on divorce’s impact on children, the results revealed that parents were largely clueless about the effect their marital breakup had on their children. The survey included 1000 parents and 100 children who were asked various questions about divorce. Parents were asked about how their children were coping with the news and children were queried regarding their perceptions of their parents.
Over 75 percent of parents surveyed felt their children were doing fine and were not significantly affected by the divorce. Conversely, about one-third of the children under the age of 18 reported being devastated by the news of their parents’ divorce with about 13 percent blaming themselves. Further, nearly 40 percent of the children stated that they hid their true feelings from their parents, while 20 percent felt it was useless to communicate with their parents.
Perhaps more telling about the parents’ perceptions was that they were nearly completely unaware of how their children were coping with the divorce. The survey showed that 11 percent of the children had self-inflicted harm, while 5 percent took to drinking alcohol and 11 percent had suicidal thoughts.
Helping Your Children Cope
What this survey clearly demonstrates is that many parents are too focused on their marital problems and are unaware of the impact their separation and breakup is having on their children. Children crave stability and routine and need to feel loved and reassured. When the parents are too wrapped up in their own feelings, they fail to consider the sensitivities of their children who only want their parents to be happy and together.
If you are anxious about talking to your children, carefully plan what you will tell them. Communicate truthfully with your children while discussing these topics:
- Do not cast blame on the other spouse and talk about your spouse with respect
- Explain to your children why you are divorcing and be sure your spouse is consistent about the reasons
- Avoid stress and try to maintain a civil relationship with your spouse
- Avoid arguments about the children
- Tell your children that both of you will remain in their lives and will be available to give advice and other counsel
- Tell them that you love them and will care for them every day
- Ask your children how they feel and reassure them that they will continue to have a strong stable relationship with both parents
- Maintain a positive attitude
- Maintain a routine
Getting Your Children to Talk
If you both are consistent on the reasons for why you are divorcing, then your children may be more accepting of the situation and be more willing to express how they feel. If you are civil with your spouse and avoid stressful situations and follow the above suggested topics, your children will be more accepting as well.
You should know if your children are experiencing depression. Be sensitive to their moods, anger, withdrawal and changes in routine and school performance. If your child still refuses to talk to you or is not being honest and their schoolwork is suffering, consider counseling for all of you.
Do Not Forget Yourself
Your own emotional well-being is instrumental in how your children react to your divorce. It is important to exercise, maintain a healthy diet and to seek support from friends. Maintaining a positive attitude while around your children will reassure them as well and relieve your and their stress levels. Finally, seek counseling if you are having problems with anger, loneliness or grief.
A divorce attorney who has handled child custody and other children’s issues can be a welcome asset. Many divorce lawyers are familiar with parental support groups and therapists and can refer you to them if appropriate. Your Boston divorce lawyer Doug Lovenberg can also advise you on the importance of communicating honestly and often with your children, which can lead to a more amicable settlement of any disputed issues with your spouse.