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Minding the Kids in Divorce: How to Minimize the Mental Health Impact

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By Mikkie Mills

As the marriage dissolves, parents are left with so much to work on and decide. They have to figure out a way of diving their assets, settling the divorce amicably, and how to care for the children. While parents have a lot to ponder on, children are at risk of suffering psychological effects. They are prone to stress, anxiety, and depression after their parents split. The effects usually show after about five to nine months. As a parent, you ought to be vigilant about your child's behavior so that you can notice any changes before they progress.

What emotional impact does divorce have on kids?

Divorce puts every family member in an emotional turmoil. The situation is frustrating, confusing and scary for the children. Kids react to the events depending on their age:

  • Young kids worry that if their parents stop loving each other, they may also stop loving them.
  • Grade school kids feel that the divorce is their fault. They believe that if they behaved better, their parents would be together.
  • Teenagers tend to get annoyed with the changes that result after a divorce episode. They blame their parents for the split.

What your children want from you during the divorce

  • They want you to be in their lives. Call, text, and email as much as you can. If you do not do this, your kid may feel like you do not love them anymore.
  • They want you to work with them towards achieving their dreams and not to fight each other. Agree on matters that relate to their well-being. When you fight about their issues, they feel like it's their fault and they feel guilty.
  • They want to love you equally without feeling guilty for that. They want to continue enjoying their time with both parents as they would when you were together. Make sure you support them when they visit you. Do not act upset or jealous. Never put your kids in a situation that forces them to take sides.
  • They want to communicate directly with you. Avoid scenarios where your child has to act as an intermediary between you two.
  • When talking about the other parent, say nice things only. If you cannot say something sweet, do not bother to say anything at all. Saying mean things about the other parents puts your kids in a situation where they feel like they should take your side.
  • Remember that your child wants both parents to be present. They hope that both parents will be there to parent, teach and help them at all times.

Strategies to help reduce the psychological toll divorce has on kids

  1. Tell the truth
    Your children are entitled to knowing when you want to separate. Although the lengthy reasons behind your decision might confuse them, they expect honesty from you. Say things like, "We are unable to get along." You ought to remind them that both of you will be there always.
  2. Take care of the changes
    Now that you are aware of the changes that are likely to take place, let your children know in advance. Assure them that everything is okay and let them know that you will handle the details over time.
  3. Assure them of your love
    Say that you love them. Their emotions are all over the place at this time, and the reassuring message of your love will go a long way.
  4. Monitor them
    It is easy to curb a problem before it progresses. Make sure you observe your kids keenly to notice any issue when it arises. If you can, install security cameras in your home but ensure the kids do not know that they are being watched.
  5. Never put your children in the middle
    Do not ask them to choose the parent they prefer. Children who are caught up in the middle are prone to anxiety and stress.

It is normal for children to experience difficulties when their parents separate. If you notice significant behavioral and mood changes, make sure you seek professional assistance. Your input as a parent is crucial at this time.

About Mikkie Mills: “I’m a Chicago native who loves to share her expertise about personal development and growth. When I’m not writing, I’m chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym.” More articles by Mikkie.
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