Common to all divorces and the impact on children are the issues of disruption, the emotional availability of the parents, and parental conflict.
Most of us enjoy some degree of predictability in our lives. We get up at predictable times, go through self-care routines, eat our usual foods prepared in our usual manner, engage in our daily activities and then go through regular end-of-day routines, ending in our sleep routine to get ready to follow a similar pattern the next day.
Given that divorce typically follows months to years of increasing tension to outright conflict, couples who are living in unhappy relationships are immersed in negative emotions that, upon the triggering of divorce, tends to escalate tremendously and may continue at significantly higher levels for an extended period of time.
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In the throes of separation/divorce and changing roles, stability and predictability may be limited and at the same time, we as parents may be emotionally distracted by the increase of conflict and worry. Taken together, our children’s routines may be quite disrupted. At the same time, parental availability, be it their physical or emotional availability, may be limited. This means our children, who depending on age, are dependent upon us to varying degrees, may not feel safe (emotionally or physically), and their parents may not be as available to them to restore predictability, provide emotional support, or at times, even physical support such as diaper changes, meal preparation and supervision.
To make divorce easier for children, parents need to be mindful of their own mental state and how that may interfere with meeting the needs of their children on a timely basis. Those needs include ongoing routine for predictability as well as the parents’ emotional availability to hear their worries and to offer their comfort.
Help for children in these circumstances best begins by help for the parents. There may be many heightened emotions as well as concerns about future living arrangements and finances.
To that end, parents should strongly consider outside resources such as counselling, financial and legal advice. As the parent helps themselves, he or she can better manage their intense feelings, reduce conflict, and plan for the future. This puts the parents in a better place to concentrate on and support their children.