The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports that one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. Married couples hear these kinds of statistics often, but the challenges for divorcing parents do not truly become a reality until their marriage becomes a part of this statistic. For parents experiencing a high-conflict divorce, these challenges can be detrimental to the whole family, especially to the children.
The very nature of divorce makes the process difficult for everyone involved. Even the most amicable, peaceful separations can dig up many mixed emotions for the family. Much like other losses in life, divorce grief usually unravels in layers over time. Just when you think you may be out of the woods and on the road to healing, a simple memory or argument can trigger an emotional setback. Children who witness episodes of high conflict between their parents during their separation tend to suffer the most, but there are steps parents can take to lessen these negative effects, including:
Limit your child’s exposure to the conflict - Psychology experts highlight the fact that divorce itself is not necessarily what causes harm to children in the short term and long term. In fact, research shows that children do relatively well in single-parent homes or in homes where conflict is not present. When a child witnesses volatile relationships or is placed in the middle of arguments, that is where the damage is done. Experts recommend keeping your child out of the line of fire as much as you can. If you and your spouse cannot get along and always end up fighting, try communicating via email or on the phone when your child is not home.
Do not lie or deny - Studies show that when parents keep their divorce a secret from their child or are not upfront with them about what is happening, the child experiences greater anxiety and stress, and they may carry the emotional scars with them for years to come. Before, during, and after the divorce, it is important to talk with your child about what is happening — preferably with both parents present — and assure them that it is not their fault that you are splitting up. Children tend to think they are somehow responsible for their parents’ divorce, and talking to them about the changes in your family can allow them the opportunity to express their own fears or anger and to process those feelings.
Avoid bashing the other parent - Talking negatively about your spouse or disrespecting them in front of your child will only add to the child's anxieties. Your child needs to know that both of their parents love them and are on their side. Experts tell parents to avoid making their child feel as if they have to choose one parent over the other.
Do your best to maintain a stable environment - This is one of the most important tips to practice during and after the divorce — and possibly the hardest. When you are grieving the end of your marriage yourself, it can be extremely difficult to be fully present, attentive, and available for your children. However, by being there to support them and working to uphold their regular routines in the midst of such big changes, you can help reduce their stress and allow them to rebound quicker.
There is no easy answer on how to navigate a divorce while trying to be your child’s parent — you need support just as much as your child does. Focusing on self-care so you can be emotionally available for your child throughout the process is a critical step in protecting your family’s overall mental health. Let a dedicated team of professionals handle the legal aspects of your divorce while you concentrate on caring for your family. Reach out to a knowledgeable Lombard divorce lawyer right away — call Mevorah Law Offices LLC today at 630-755-6426 and ask for a free consultation.
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