Children and Divorce: Avoiding the Mistakes of Others
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Over the years there have been endless studies on the effects of divorce on
parents and children. Some of the results are controversial. Others seem to
be universally accepted as relevant and real. Here are a few of my perceptions
from studies on children who experience divorce that I believe all of us, as
parents, should take to heart.
Not surprisingly, the first two years of divorce are the most difficult. In
some cases it takes an average of three to five years to really "work through"
and resolve many of the issues and emotions that come to the surface. For some,
the effects of divorce last many additional years -- or even a lifetime -- if
not dealt with appropriately. Taking steps toward a child-centered divorce can
dramatically impact the negative effects of divorce on all members of the family.
It will help everyone to move through this time rather than merely letting "time
heal all wounds."
Preschoolers tend to be more frightened and anxious, but seem to adjust better
than older children in the long run. Their biggest fear is of abandonment. Stressing
security and a continuation of family routines is very helpful for them.
Older children understand more, but do not have adequate coping skills and
therefore seem to have more long-term problems. This is often because they remember
life before the divorce and so experience a greater change of life patterns
and dwell more on comparisons between the past and present. Stressing the love
both parents have for the child -- and that that love will continue forever
is vitally important whenever possible.
Children who may have witnessed a troubled marriage and family life may greatly
benefit from observing their parents now working out a reasonable and respectful
post-divorce arrangement. This positive and mature behavior will affect a child's
adjustment more than any other factor.
It is never too late to create a child-centered divorce, even if you started
on the wrong track. Every step you take toward focusing on your children's emotional,
psychological and physical needs as they move through the months and years post-divorce,
will be a step toward modeling for them how loving, compassionate, and caring
parents respond to their children's needs. I encourage you to make your relationship
with your children's other parent as respectful and considerate as you can --
for the sake of your children.