Each year, more than 1 million children experience the emotional trauma of divorce. Half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Leaving kids feeling dejected, angry or fearful of their future.
“We know from research that divorce is so enormously stressful. It’s second only to death of a loved one in terms of how stressful it is to deal with and the amount of time it takes to adjust,” JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, researcher and author of “Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive through Divorce.”
Divorce can be traumatic for kids of all ages. Parents who work together and put their children’s needs first can minimize the emotional toll on the family. Pedro-Carroll says parents should practice what she calls the two pillars of quality parenting. To be emotionally supportive and nurturing, while providing structure and setting limits for their children’s behavior
Parents sometimes decide to relax their rules because they feel guilty that their kids are going through the difficulty of a divorce or because they want to be viewed as the parent who is more fun, says Pedro-Carroll.
“We know from research how risky it can be for children when they fall between parents. Who aren’t monitoring and setting limits. Having limits makes them feel secure.”
The biggest risk factors for children is on-going conflict between parents. Especially when kids are in the middle.
Asking for details about an ex-spouse’s new boyfriend or having kids deliver a message about the alimony check, puts them in the middle of the conflict. Forced to take sides and get in trouble for sharing information.
“They basically have to love their children more than they hate their ex, so that they can pick a problem-solving approach.” Pedro-Carroll recommends that divorced parents adopt a business-like approach when interacting with each other. Redefining their relationship from former lover and spouse to respected colleague is crucial. They can focus on the goal of raising their children with consistent rules and values. They should be supportive of their children having a healthy relationship with both parents.