Divorce isn’t easy on anyone and the combustion of a relationship is no simple matter to maneuver and make it through. For the partners involved, it’s a deeply personal, painful experience. Failure, resentment, frustration and other similar feelings are common, and it can be hard to get past them, let alone let them go. Everything just seems upside-down.
It’s easy to see everything in tunnel vision. Because the experience is so all-consuming, it can be tough to see beyond the shadow of the troubles right in front of us, and many times that means that we fail to see many things that we may be more aware of in our usual, everyday life—like how divorce can affect children.
Most parents’ goal is to always look out for a child’s needs before their own, making sure they have what they need to succeed. When divorce strikes, however, it’s possible for that to get suppressed—self-preservation becomes the main priority for the parents as stress, lack of self-esteem, and other psychological side effects take hold of even the most mindful mom or dad.
The most important thing in the midst of a situation like divorce is to make sure that you take time to mend your own mind, body, and spirit. Not only will you benefit from the quiet time in your mind, you’ll also assuredly find ways to make sure you’re being the best parent that you can.
First, how are children most affected? We usually look for immediate signs of trouble but it’s also important to know what longer-term effects divorce can have like:
Children of Divorced Families Have a Higher Risk of Cigarette Smoking
“In a study published in the March 2013 edition of Public Health, researchers at the University of Toronto found that both sons and daughters of divorced families are significantly more likely to begin smoking than peers whose parents are married. In an analysis of 19,000 Americans, men whose parents divorced before they turned 18 had 48 percent higher odds of smoking than men with intact families. Women had 39 percent higher odds of picking up the habit. Lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson called the link ‘very disturbing.’"
Parental Relationships Affect Long-term Relationships
"People’s relationships with their parents and romantic partners play important roles in their lives,” Fraley said. "This research brings us one step closer to understanding why it is that some people have relatively secure relationships with close others whereas others have more difficulty opening up to and depending on important people in their lives.”
These two issues that arise with children over time are indications that a breakdown in communication may be an underlying problem for most families. Divorcing parents have a responsibility to their children to keep a sense of family intact as much as possible. What little steps can you take to make it better right now? Start with these two:
Make Time to Hear Your Kids
Finding the balance between too much and too little talk may feel overwhelming; start by approaching it in an easy, non-specific way. Ask them about their day, what’s going on in their school or social life. Knowing your child, you’ll be able to begin to examine whether or not they’re okay. Reassure them that you’re there for them, and always an active participant in their individual life.
Make Them Feel Important
Everyone needs a break, and that includes the kids. Take them out for a special treat to step back and have a few minutes of fun. If you’ve got multiple children, if at all possible, try to take them out individually. Not only will you have a better chance of reaching them outside of their day-to-day surroundings and thought processes, you’ll also help them feel reassured in knowing you still have time and energy to provide them much-needed love and support.
Life’s toughest situations make us strong. Even if you feel like your just treading water—remember, you’re moving. The key is to keep calm enough to see everything clearly. The more positive your perspective, the better it will be for everyone involved. Find strength in being there for your kids; they’re your greatest accomplishment and will always be there for you, so make sure you see it now, not after you’ve weathered the storm.