The process of seeing his or her parents separate and divorce is traumatic for a child even under the best conditions (and few divorce scenarios involve the “best conditions” anyway). This is because the well-being and proper development of all children is intricately tied in with their sense of family security and stability. When a child is forced by his or her parents’ split to change residences and often (in a shared custody situation) divide time between two different homes, this sense of security is often permanently or at least temporarily disrupted.
How can parents help make this transition easier?
Try to keep schedules consistent. A child of divorcing parents must deal with a great deal of inherent upheaval. It is important that, even with moving between parents’ homes and other unavoidable changes, the child’s schedule and environment is kept as consistent as possible under the circumstances.
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Optimize the familiarity of surroundings. Try to ensure that the child has familiar and comforting items at both homes, and that he or she maintains customary social interactions with friends and extended family.
Ensure contact with both parents is maintained. Parents need to co-operate and ensure that the child stays in regular contact with both of them. For example, when the child is in the custody of one parent (and subject to court-ordered custody and access stipulations), the other parent should strive to keep in touch through visits, phone calls, emails and even Skype sessions.
Enlist help from others. Parents who are separated and divorcing may need help in trying to reduce the stress and turbulence that becomes a part of the child’s new reality. Support of all types can come from family and friends, health care and mental health professionals, support groups, family mediators, and various family service agencies and community resources.
Give the child time. Any change involves adjustment; it is important that parents do not pressure the child either directly or implicitly.
For children, dealing with the upheaval surrounding their parents’ separation and divorce will never be “easy”, but parents can do their best to help make the transition easier for children after a divorce.
Do you have questions about the legal or practical realities of children and divorce? Contact us for a consultation.