Separation and divorce are never easy, especially any time children are involved.
Although statistics about separations can be difficult to come by, divorce statistics are readily available. Unfortunately, the statistics are anything but rosy:
- 41% of first marriages end in divorce
- 60% of second marriages end in divorce
- 73% of third marriages end in divorce
A simple calculation reveals an average divorce rate well in excess of 50%. In other words, every other marriage in the US – one out of every two – ends in divorce.
Perhaps even more alarming, a recent report issued by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University indicated that only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents. If this is accurate, it is the lowest percentage in the Western world.
While many couples stay in unhappy marriages simply for the sake of the children, this is rarely helpful for the long-term emotional and relationship health of a child. However, what can separated or divorced parents do to lessen the impact of their separation on their children’s long-term emotional well-being and their child’s ability to form healthy relationships in the future?
What You Can Do to Help Your Child
One of the early challenges for most parents is to define and coordinate the roles each parent will play in the raising of their children. As parents, you must make some compromises and come to an agreement on how you want to raise your children. Also, a good deal of parenting requires complementary actions. One parent will act in a certain way because they know that their spouse will support that action or will help complete it.
Although, you may be separated, none of this is less true. In fact, both you and your ex must learn to work together, if only in so far as your parenting responsibilities are concerned, in order for your child to have a chance at forming healthy relationship in the future.
The following are just a few of the things both of you can do to lessen any negative consequences of your separation on your child’s future health and well-being:
- Give your child permission to love both of you. Children are the ones hurt the most when one parent blames the other for a separation or divorce. In order for your child to not feel stuck in the middle or the need to take sides, be sure you don’t speak negatively of your ex in front of your child.
- Don’t argue in front of your children. Do whatever it takes to have contentious conversations that may become argumentative away from your children, even if it means getting a sitter. Don’t assume that just because your child is in their room, watching television, etc. that they’re not aware of what’s going on or being said.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Children thrive on predictability and fear changes to their routine. Even if you and your ex are living separate lives, make sure you coordinate your parenting schedules so your child has a routine they can count on.
- Follow through on commitments to your children. If you say you’re going to take them to the beach and a movie on Saturday, do so. If you fail to follow through on your promises to your child, they are likely to believe that they are unappreciated, unloved, and the reason for the separation.
- Listen to your child. Be sure to make time to both play with, and listen to, your child. And when you listen, listen to their thoughts, feelings, and concerns empathetically. Don’t project your concerns and stress on to them. Rather, give them the time, support, and understanding they need.
- Consider professional counseling. Seeing your own therapist, seeking co-parenting counseling, or providing your child with a therapist can dramatically improve the chances that your child won’t take your separation personally and will be able to incorporate the changes in a healthy manner.
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Although you may have decided to end your marriage, your child is still entitled to a productive, healthy, and happy childhood.
Parent counseling can be vital to helping you and your ex:
- Redefine your parenting roles
- Resolve any conflicts you have regarding the raising of your children
- Learn how to answer your children’s questions with honesty and empathy
- Address the day-to-day issues of parenting successfully
- Make sure your children’s best interests are first and foremost
Children frequently fear that they are somehow to blame for a separation or divorce and frequently wish that their parents will get back together again. Parent counseling can help you address your child’s hopes and fears in a manner that assures them they’re loved for who they are regardless of whether or not both parents choose to live together. And this can mean all the difference to your child’s future well-being and happiness.
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