The Psychological Effect Divorce has on Children

An article entitled “The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children” written by Amy Morin and medically reviewed by Joel Forman, MD, discusses the steps that parents can take to “help kids bounce back faster.”

Pediatric Psychology is an extremely complex subject. Unlike their adult parents going through a divorce, a child who is going through a traditional divorce proceeding is still developing cognitively. Parents who are in the midst of  traditional litigation may be less inclined to consider the psychological ramifications those nasty proceedings have on their children.  Fear of losing custody of their children often blinds a parent to the fact that the emotional trauma they may endure, is negligible compared to the trauma that the child is already enduring.

Morin offers clinical findings detailing how the emotional impact of a negative or unexpected divorce can result in mental health issues, behavior problems, and long term relationship troubles later in life.

By taking steps to avoid a negative or unexpected divorce, you are already taking steps to help lessen the burden the child will, unfortunately, have to carry for the rest of his or her life. There is no way to avoid the fact that there are negative psychological implications that a parents’ divorce has on the kids, but there is a way you can address that fact: communication.

Beating around the bush is not going to help anyone. You and your spouse are going to need to sit down with your child(ren) and explain to them how the family structure is going to work going forward. Using an alternative divorce resolution process such as  mediation or collaborative divorce, can significantly ease any conflict between you and your spouse, thereby lessening the stress on children.

In Morin’s words: “Asking kids to choose which parent they like best or giving them messages to give to other parents isn’t appropriate. Kids who find themselves caught in the middle are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.” – Amy Morin LCSW

By being upfront and laying out the reality of the situation, the child(ren) is going to be able to process all of this information. There may be details that you and your spouse want to omit, but for the most part, you should be upfront and honest about the impending divorce, but not the dirty details. After all, if you were in the same situation you would want the same. This is especially true for someone in high school, as young adults they are much more aware than they are given credit for being.

In order for any of this advice to work, you and your spouse need to be on speaking terms for the sake of your kids. By handling your divorce through one the Alternative divorce resolution process options, you and your spouse will receive support in the process of restructuring your family and redefining your roles as co-parents.  When your children watch you and your spouse work through your issues in a respectful and constructive manner you are modeling positive conflict resolution for them and you send the message that even though things are changing, everything is going to be alright.

Traditional litigation drives people apart from each other and adds an unneeded layer of financial stress on top of the heap of emotional distress.  No matter which process you use to get divorced  it is your duty to your child(ren) to maintain a relationship where you are both able to adequately co-parent. Make no mistake, in order to properly co-parent communication is essential. Divorced families, especially those with younger children, need to have some ability to maintain dialogue.

With all of this being said, you may be re-considering or regretting the divorce. Morin says that “Despite the fact that divorce is tough on families staying together for the sole sake of the children may not be the best option.” If your child(ren) is witnessing the toxicity between you and your spouse on a daily basis, this may be far more damaging then living through a divorce.  Doing what’s best for you and your family should be your main goal, and if divorce is the best route to take then proceed in the least destructive way possible.

Mediation and collaborative divorce provide an alternative to traditional litigation. So, if you are left with no other options other than divorce, choose the right way to divorce.

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