- Family and Parenting
How Divorce Affects Your Children
Reasons Parents May Be Divorcing
There are a multitude of reasons why a child's parents may be separating or divorcing. Frequently, the reasons may be either affairs, irreconcilable differences, or household abuse. No divorce is ever the exact same, and circumstances vary by case. It's safe to say that when parents divorce, no matter what the circumstance, the children are emotionally changed in the process. A child needs a mother and father to be raised properly and with the right tools to learn, and when that is taken away, whether the child is raised solely by the mother, or father, or any other person for that matter, the child will go through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Good or Bad?
The question often arises of whether or not the divorce was justified. As said previously, it all depends on circumstance. I can say that sometimes, divorce is what's necessary for the child to have a better future. If a child's father is an abusive alcoholic, then the mother would be better off raising the child on her own. The same would go for the father raising the child on his own, given that the mother is unfit to take care of somebody. That being said, sometimes two parents divorcing is the only option left to create a better life for their child. On the flip side, divorce should not be an easy decision. It should be thought about thoroughly before placing your child in a position that's going to affect him/her emotionally forever. I encourage you, before signing divorce papers, to seek help from a marriage counselor, and to seek advice from friends and loved ones.
Will Your Kids Pick a Side?
In a short and blunt way to answer: Yes. Your child very well may pick their side, which usually means supporting either mom or dad. More common than not, a child will choose the side of the mother, because by nature, mothers are typically more nurturing than fathers (which is understandably not always true, but it is fairly common). What happens when you divorce is your children will look at which parent they have a closer relationship with, and stick to that parent.
What NOT To Do
As hard as it is going through a divorce, there must be a certain set of ground rules that you have to follow in the best interest of your children. First and foremost:
Do not try and appease your child.
What happens all too often is the custody of the child depends partly on the child's preference of what parent he/she wants to live with - a decision that can be swayed by appeasement and bribery. What some parents are guilty of is saying "[Insert child's name], if you choose to live with me then I'll buy you a jet ski," or "[Insert name here], you should tell the judge you want to live with me because I bought you..."
The custody of your child should not be based on what parent can buy him the most novelty items, but should be based on what parent the child is truly suited better to live with.
Do not tell your child to lie for the sake of getting your spouse into trouble.
Perpetrating lies about your ex-spouse through the mouths of your children is quite immoral and should not be done. Teaching your kids to lie to get what they want will only hurt them in the future, since most children will emulate their parents in some shape or form over the course of their lifetime. Instead of teaching your kids to lie, cheat, and disrupt a legal process that's meant to be based on welfare and goodness, teach your kids to be citizens, and while going through the divorce, explain to your children how sometimes, adults have to divorce in order to grow personally and spiritually. Teach your children how adults must make decisions that affect them for a lifetime, and let your children grow from that experience.
What TO Do
In a less critical tone, let's dive into what you should be doing during the time of the divorce.
Research your laws.
It would be very wise to research some laws that your lawyer may not tell you at first. For the sake of retaining custody of your child, research local and state laws that would give you more of an edge over a pushy spouse. Your spouse may try to trick you into signing a deal that could've otherwise been avoided if you knew what laws you were protected by.
Be diplomatic in your conversations with your spouse.
Instead of becoming belligerent and angry at your spouse, be diplomatic and be sure to communicate in a calm and level-headed state of mind. The best decisions are always made when you are calm and ready to analyze the situation at hand.
Stay healthy and active.
Going through a divorce is a stressful time in anyone's life, but it's not to be mistaken as an excuse to stop maintaining yourself. While going through your divorce, be sure to live a healthy lifestyle by eating the right food, exercising, and getting outside. It is surprising what some exercise on a nice spring day can do for what seems like a daunting situation!
Keep looking forward.
Just because you are losing someone who meant a lot to you at some point in time (as painful as it may seem) does not mean you can pass up opportunities given to you. If you have that vacation time you've been saving, then don't let your divorce trap you into a cycle of thinking that you don't need a vacation since your spouse is leaving - take that vacation anyways, and have a good time doing it. It's understandable that having kids can take away from your much needed relaxation time, but always try to keep your family fun, whether your spouse is there or not. All in all, despite losing your spouse, keep looking forward in the sense that you have to keep living your life, as hard as it may seem.