I attended a great panel talk the other week on parenting through divorce. The talk was organized by Elise Pettus, founder of UNtied, and given by three experienced therapists – Steve Demby, Barbara Rothberg, and Alice Kaltman. Together, the presenters shared a wealth of helpful information about parenting, and I wanted to share some of the highlights. This post will focus on the effects that divorce may have on parents and children, the following post will highlight behaviors that children may exhibit during divorce, and the final post in the series will offer tips for co-parenting.
How Does Divorce Affect Parents?
Divorce is an emotional experience for parents. It causes significant change, which represents both new beginnings as well as loss for both spouses. One or both parents may experience feelings of sadness, hope, excitement, anger, relief, anxiety and a variety of other emotions during and/or after the divorce process.
Riding the waves of those varied emotions is challenging enough in itself; doing that while being emotionally, financially and otherwise responsible for your child(ren)…well, it can be hard! Above all else, parents should know that it is normal to feel that you’re overwhelmed or struggling during periods of the divorce transition. It gets easier over time, both for you and your kids.
How Does Divorce Affect Kids?
Although divorce represents significant transition and change for children, children are incredibly resilient. They are hard-wired to survive and thrive amidst all kinds of challenges and change, and your divorce is no different.
Children are especially successful in re-adjusting after a divorce when they are able to maintain strong relationships with and positive perceptions of both parents, wherever possible, and to sense a united front from their parents, even though they’re no longer living under the same roof. This does not mean that you and your ex need to be on “good terms” with each other. It does mean that your kids will benefit immensely if you and your ex try to observe three basic rules of thumb:
- Don’t speak negatively about your ex to your children;
- Don’t argue with your ex in front of your children; and
- Don’t share details of your own struggles in your divorce with your children.
If the above feels impossible, you are not alone! Many parents find that the assistance of professionals during and immediately after the divorce – with expertise in how divorce impacts adults and children, and how to work with families in transition – can be a helpful source of support, guidance and reassurance, and can help them stay true to the way they would like to parent through divorce.