Divorce Affects All Children Differently
In a recent People magazine interview, Kate Gosselin described the reaction that her twin girls, both 8 years old, had when they were told about the divorce. She explained how both girls reacted differently to the news, with one calmly replying that she knew it was going to happen and the other bursting into tears.
According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, there are approximately 1,250,000 divorces per year in the United States. Two out of five children will experience the divorce of their parents before their 18th birthday, with an estimated half of these children being 6 years old or younger.
So what can parents do to ensure that their children are provided with the necessary support and guidance to make it through the uncharted seas of divorce?
According to Judith Wallerstein, an expert on divorce, some of the effects of divorce on children emerge rapidly, while others manifest later in life. That is why it is so important that parents are provided with the tools to help their children adjust after a divorce:
- Talk with your children openly and honestly about the divorce. Encourage them to ask questions and express their feelings on a regular basis. Remember that every child responds differently to divorce, and just because your child does not show outward signs of distress does not mean they are not hurting on the inside.
- Make every effort to ease the transition of your child from one home to the other.
- Develop a parenting plan that both parents can agree on.
- Create a supportive and cooperative relationship with your ex-spouse. Remaining civil with your ex-spouse is essential to your child's self worth.
- Focus on what your ex is doing right, not wrong.
- Begin thinking of your ex-spouse as the mother or father of your child, instead of your ex. Try to find a way to develop a healthy and civil relationship with your co-parent.
- Reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault, and make it clear that this does not change your love for your child.
- Refrain from putting your child in the middle. Never make them messengers to the other parent.
- Do not let your child witness your anger toward your ex. Remember, your child is half of the other parent, and when you criticize your ex, your child will feel criticized as well.
This column was written by Youth First's Kate Murray. Youth First is an Evansville non-profit organization focused on youth substance-abuse prevention, healthy behaviors and success in school. Contact the organization at (812) 421-8336 or at www.youthfirstinc.org.