Fortunately, researchers have worked for years to establish solid information about the outcomes of divorce. According to Joanne Pedro-Carroll, PhD, founder of Children of Divorce Intervention Program USA, there are three main factors that impact children’s well-being during and after their parents’ divorce. Hostile conflict, the quality of parenting over time, and the parent-child relationship all make a huge difference in the way children cope with divorce.
These three factors can certainly strongly impact a child in a family with an intact marriage as well. However, a healthy balance among these factors seems to be even more critical when the parents are no longer spouses. The disruption of divorce can truly test the resilience and relationship skills of each family member.
Research has also confirmed that divorce does elevate a child’s risk of having emotional, academic, and social problems. A child who initially shows several symptoms of distress is among the most vulnerable to problems. However, long-term studies are also showing that most children from a divorced family transition to adulthood with few major issues.
In a nutshell, the smaller percentage who really struggle at first are the most likely to have significant problems. And overall, simply growing up in a divorced family does not automatically mean a child will develop significant lifelong emotional problems.
Because the initial stage of divorce can be the most stressful, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to reduce harm to a child’s life.
1. Give children some notice before things start to change.
2. Allow children a chance to talk and ask questions as much as possible.
3. Keep parental conflict to a minimum, and keep the kids out of it.
4. Show warmth and love, assuring children they will always be loved no matter what. Spend personal time with each child to help strengthen your parent-child relationship.
5. Be consistent with information, with discipline, with routines, with everything. This is a good thing to strive for as a parent anyway, but it is critical for a family dealing with divorce.
6. Take advantage of support groups or after-school programs for children of divorce when possible. Social support can make a difference for both parents and children.
7. Put the oxygen mask on yourself and the assist others. In other words, take good care of yourself as an individual and a parent so you can be better equipped to support your children.
Readers, please add your thoughts, comments, and additional suggestions to the list above. Your personal experiences and viewpoints are a valuable part of the discussion. If you have been through a divorce (as a parent or a child), please share what you thought helped the most.