Don’t Divorce the Children
Bitter are the tears of a child: Sweeten them. Deep are the thoughts of a child: Quiet them. Sharp is the grief of a child: Take it from him. Soft is the heart of a child: Do not harden it. –Pamela Glenconner
Does divorce traumatize children? The answer depends on two factors: the child’s resiliency and the environment created by divorce. People are unique in their personal makeup. Some experience events like they’re made of Teflon – it just slides off . Others experience events as severe trauma – they are enduringly influenced. Parents can’t do much about resiliency – you are pretty much born with it. Parents can, and do, influence the environment.
How can parents help to minimize the risk of trauma to children during and after divorce?
Parent to child:
• Provide space for children to express their fears, sadness and sense of loss.
• Make clear that the divorce was not their fault.
• Reassure them that they will be safe.
• Create a stable routine and appropriate discipline.
• Give them ample advance notice of changes whenever possible.
• Avoid making your child a source for your emotional support. Between parents:
• Support your child’s relationship with their other parent and avoid negative comments about them.
• Keep the specifics of the divorce between yourselves – because it is.
• Avoid using children to communicate between parents – or report on them.
• Avoid conflict and argument in the presence of the children.
• When possible, speak to your children together to reassure them they are loved by you both.
• Find ways to communicate with each other that eliminate (or reduce) hostility.
Parent to self:
• Maintain and/or build a support system from extended family and friends.
• Consider individual or group organized or professional support.
• Strive for balance in your life despite the stresses (eat well, exercise, and nourish your spirit).
• Set goals and prioritize issues you need to address.
• Inform yourself of the challenges faced in divorce and co-parenting.
• Be forgiving and accepting of yourself – there’s probably enough guilt in the system already.
Some of the indicators that children are experiencing the divorce in a traumatic way are:
• Increased moodiness
• Negative self-comments (i.e., “No one likes me.” “I hate myself.” “I’m dumb”)
• Withdrawal or losing interest in things they used to like.
• Sleep or eating problems.
• Drug or alcohol use.
• Uncharacteristic anger outbursts or fighting.
• Loss of concentration.
When parents’ divorce, they don’t divorce the children.
For more information contact the Center for Cooperative Divorce at 661-255-9348 or visit us online at www.centerforcooperativedivorce.com.
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