Most child psychologists would recommend parents get a divorce instead of raising their children in an unhappy home. However, the proceedings and aftermath of divorce still have the potential to damage a child’s mental health.
If you are anticipating a divorce, keep your eye out for these common psychological issues and be prepared to address them.
Affection and support
Research has found that mothers tend to be less supportive and affectionate to their children after divorce. This could likely be because of the stresses and emotions that result from all of the big life changes divorce brings.
Whether you are a mother or a father, it is more important now than ever to extend love and support to your child during this difficult time. Try to make it your goal to do the following each day at least once:
- Communicate your affection — this could be an “I love you” or a “You’ll do great on your test today!”
- Show your affection — you can do this by tucking your child into bed or giving them a hug
- Ask them about their life — try to acknowledge their own stresses in life by asking about school or friends or how they feel about the divorce
- Offer help — Whether it be with their math homework or a new coping mechanism, your support will show
Trust and security
One of the most common psychological effects a divorce can have on children is damage to their ability to trust. Many children of divorce fear abandonment and doubt that commitments and plans will be followed through. This can affect their future relationships, both platonic and romantic, as well as their academic, athletic and career pursuits.
To salvage your child’s trust, it’s important not to badmouth their other parent. Try to ensure that each of you remain role models in your child’s eyes. While discussing the divorce, avoid blaming yourself or the other parent for conflicts, explaining instead that the match simply stopped working.
Structure and rules
Studies have found that the discipline of a custodial parent, in particular, tends to become less consistent and effective after divorce. Research also shows that children of divorce tend to be risk-takers and have behavioral issues. This can all lead to poor academic performance, the conflict between peers and more serious issues later in life, such as criminal activity or substance abuse.
Though your children may not recognize rules and structure as a form of care right now, secretly they’d sooner have your concern than not. Even if it doesn’t make you feel like the “fun” parent, maintaining rules, boundaries, routine, and structure for your child will help them in the long-run.
Now is an important time to help your child find a positive coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of big life changes. However, it’s equally that you are practicing positive coping mechanisms too.
Taking your anger, stress or sadness out on your child will damage your relationship with them. Try to avoid negative behaviors, such as:
- Yelling when you are angry
- Becoming apathetic when you are upset
- Experiencing any sort of meltdown in front of your child
- Being destructive, violent or mean
Instead, model relaxation techniques for your child to follow.
A helping hand
If you are struggling with any of these issues after a divorce, it might be a good idea to get a helping hand. Reaching out to family, friends and even a mental health professional, can lend you the support you need to deal with your divorce in a healthy way.
From there, an attorney can help take the stresses of the divorce work off of your plate, by advising the best course of action, helping you make negotiations and filing the paperwork.