No matter what the outcome of a divorce, the children come first. A divorce can crush a child’s known world of security.
Before the divorce, children have often been listening to and witnessing the harsh words and fights of their parents. They have lived the breakup, had their own tantrums about it, and they will live the aftershocks of the breakup as well.
Stabilising the Children
No matter what unresolved issues parents may have with one another or with their in-laws, the children’s emotions and needs must come above all else. Stabilising them must be the parents’ priority. Children do not possess critical thinking skills or experience or the emotional/mental maturity to stabilise themselves. Their world has been shattered. Children tend to blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.
The divorce rate in the United Kingdom is estimated by some statisticians to be around 42 percent. What this means is that millions of parents in Britain and their children are wrestling with significant problems and needs.
How to stabilise them? Take them out of the fighting, for starters. Do not use them as pawns to get at one another. Do not use them to assuage or comfort the injured emotions of the adults.
Divorced Parents Must Work Together
Unless there are some issues where parents absolutely must have limited involvement or supervised involvement with one another and the children (domestic violence, sexual abuse, court orders etc.), working together, no matter how difficult, for the best interests of the children is a top priority.
Here are some guidelines:
- Parents need to put aside their issues and devise a plan on how to meet the needs of their children.
- Teach the children to speak respectfully of their parents.
- Work out a plan that includes the extended family, grandparents, etc.
- Provide security, especially during times when children may be transferred from one home to the other (weekends, holidays, etc.), give children a smooth, stressless transition.
- Keep the communication lines open between parents.
- Parents do not communicate with one another through the children.
New Marriages and Relationships
As a breakup of one marriage is traumatising to children; a new marriage also holds challenges for them. Mentally and emotionally, children have been through the wringer. A new marriage or the introduction of a significant other, and maybe additional children, as well as a new extended family, still offers more hurdles for the children of divorced parents. What to do? Again, communication and devising a plan with the new partner are essential.
Here are some basics:
- Devise a parenting plan.
- Discuss the dynamics of how the new significant other will relate to the children and vice versa.
- Help the children to adapt to the new situation.
The more help children receive to stabilise, adapt and heal, the lower the risk of developing challenging issues such as eating disorders, addictions, poor school (academic and classroom/behavioural) performance, for example.