Divorce is difficult enough, but with children it can become quite complicated. At a time when many parents feel immobilized and helpless, they are faced with the task of helping their children through this tough transitional period. The dissolving of the marriage partnership is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s followed by numerous transitions that typically include changes in living arrangements, personal habits, family roles and responsibilities, finances and friendships.
According to psychologists who study divorce, the most important thing a parent can do to minimize the negative impact of divorce on their children is to coexist peacefully with their former spouse. This involves putting aside differences for the sake of the children and supporting one another in the continuing roles as parents. If the parents focus on the children’s needs more than the property settlement and related issues, and keep spousal conflict away from the children, the children’s stress will be minimized.
On the other hand, if children are exposed to frequent heated arguments, fights, threats and hateful comments between their parents, it could lead to behavior problems, loyalty conflicts and fear. Hearing one parent bad-mouth the other is what kids hate the most.
They love both parents. Unfortunately, when I share this information with a parent in a divorce or custody battle, the response is often something like this: “I know that I should control my anger around the kids, but I can’t. My ex pushes my buttons until I boil!” I respond with, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU! IT’S ABOUT YOUR KIDS.” When both ex-spouses recognize that their former husband or wife is important to their children, harmony can prevail. Ex-spouses should commit to being not just civil, but nice to each other when their children are present. If you can’t do it for your ex-spouse, do it for your children. As parents, the vow “Till death do you part” takes on a special meaning, married or divorced.