Divorce can be emotionally trying for all members of the family, but before parents can help their children, they must first take care of themselves.
“One of the most important things to do when we’re under stress—and particularly for parents going through such a major life change—is to take good care of themselves emotionally, physically and spiritually…and to understand that asking for help when we need it is a sign of strength,” says Pedro-Carroll.
Aggression, social withdrawal, depression or a significant drop in school grades may indicate that children need outside help from a professional counselor. Parents should also reach out to friends, neighbors, clergy and extended family for support.
“Divorce does put children at risk for emotional and behavioral problems; however, those risks are not inevitable,” says Pedro-Carroll. “We need to remember that there are many, many children, after that initial period of adjustment, that get back on track and can be quite healthy and well-adjusted. And one of the biggest factors in how children fare over time is how their parents go about handling the family changes and the quality of the family life they put into place during and after a divorce.”
Perhaps the simplest and most powerful thing parents can do is spend one-on-one time with each of their children. Taking the time to listen to them and respond with empathy sends the message that they are valued.
Although divorce marks the end of a marriage, the parents’ responsibilities continue. When ex-spouses work together and maintain consistent rules and a nurturing, open relationship with their children, they help create a healthy, safe family life where kids feel loved and secure.
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