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Minimizing the impact of divorce on children

The effects of a divorce can be traumatic on children of all ages. Especially in times of conflict during a divorce, your child may have a hard time coping. Conflicts during divorce can greatly impact a child's mental health and sense of wellbeing.

The good news is there are ways you can minimize any harmful impacts your divorce may have on your children. Children are known for operating best with routines, stability and knowing what to expect. When life throws them a curveball like their parents getting divorced and possibly moving to a new home, or splitting time between the parents' homes, they may need a longer time to adjust than the parents who are getting a divorce.

There are things you should definitely not do if you are looking to minimize the impact of divorce. These things are:

  • Do not ask or expect your children to take sides: putting your children in the middle of your divorce and putting pressure on them to take sides can be emotionally damaging to your child. Your child loves both parents, and may feel guilt or shame in being asked to choose one over the other. This can be a highly stressful situation that is easily preventable. Although it can be tempting to ask them to choose sides, especially if you are going through a tough custody battle, doing so will only harm your children. 
  • Do not speak disrespectfully about your ex in front of your children: speaking disrespectfully or badmouthing your ex only heightens any conflict your child already feels from your divorce. It can also be very upsetting to hear a parent who once loved the other parent have negative feelings toward someone who the child still looks up to and respects. This can be highly confusing for a child. 
  • Do not try to cut off your child from your ex: your child has the right to continue having a relationship with both parents if he or she would like to. To deprive your child of his or her relationship with one parent is not only damaging to your child, but it can also lead your child to harbor feelings of resentment toward you for doing so. 
  • Do not lean on your children for support, instead rely on other adults: it can be tempting to use your child as a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen while you vent about your divorce or a person you go to when you are upset or crying. Children may not be able to handle the extra weight of your emotions or hear the details about the conflict arising in your life. They also have their own emotions to work through. If you feel you cannot rely on another adult in your life, it may be time to seek a counselor or therapist. Your child could also benefit from seeing a therapist to work through this difficult time.

As every divorce has its own unique set of circumstances and conflicts, it's important to remember that not every child responds the same exact way to what's happening during their parents' divorce. What works for one of your children might not work for your other child.

Getting through a divorce is tough. Keeping these tips in mind can help lessen the difficulty on your children. After all, you want what's best for them, even though there may be many changes ahead for your family.

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