Is is possible to minimise the effects of divorce on children?
When parents divorce, part of the negotiations that take place is to consider the well-being of each party and arrangements that are fair and enforceable. But it’s equally important to consider the effects of the divorce on children, and that the children’s needs are put first. It is commonly believed that divorce significantly affects children, but research shows that when divorce is handled well, the effects of the divorce on children is significantly reduced.
Family circumstances are unique, and for each child, the affects are different. It’s not necessarily the divorce that negatively affects the children, but the change of situation afterwards and how the entire divorce is handled by their parents. Children need consistency and structure, and the changes after divorce can have negative consequences. These changes include the conflict between the parents, the change of schools and the act of having to move homes. Adjusting to the new structure can take up to around two years.
Effects of Divorce on Children
The reaction to divorce can be different depending on the age of each child. Younger children from pre-school to around the age of 9 may end up blaming themselves for the divorce. They may wish for their parents to get back together and try their hardest to make it happen. Their feelings and emotions may be affected when this doesn’t happen. Children this age are very dependant on their parents and they strive for love and affirmation. When parents get caught up in a high-conflict divorce, the family relationships can change significantly. They may feel as if they aren’t receiving the attention they need and begin to act in ways to attract attention.
Young teenagers react differently to the previous age group. They are more independent than young children but they still react negatively. As they now strive for independence, they may create distance from their parents. As they pull away from their parents, you may feel as if they have become secretive. They no longer blame themselves but blame their parents. Boys in this age group may become aggressive and can act out. Girls may seem more quiet and show signs of anxiety, resulting in them becoming more dependent on other people. Girls in this age group may become sexually active at an earlier age.
However, the negative impact of a high-conflict divorce on children can carry on for years. Research shows that effects come into play in later years of life, when children reach young adulthood. They may feel worried for losing their partner and may take small fights very seriously. They may find it hard to commit to a relationship or fear having a long-term relationship.
Methods to Assist Children Adjusting
There are many ways in which you can help your children adjust to divorce. A strategy that is used to reduce the negative effects of divorce on children is called nesting. Nesting is a strategy that involves three living places; one the kids stay in and the parents move in and out and the other two being the primary living area for each parent. This allows the children to stay in one house, at one school with the same furniture and toys that they had before. This is a financial consideration and not all families can function this way.
Many specialists have practised nesting, with lawyer and author, Anne Mitchell, saying she enjoyed her experience in nesting. Her husband lived in another bedroom and this allowed co-parenting and decisions to still be made together, allowing the children a set structure. She states, “Children need both parents. Many divorcing spouses just want that other person out of their lives. But that is not how it works when you have children; the other parent will always be in your life in some fashion, you will have to interact with them one way or another at least until they turn 18.”
However, it’s important to note that this arrangement is often only successful where the split is amicable. Other specialists state that the nesting could encourage arguments between the two parents, and actually become negative for the children. The other parent may not share the responsibility of buying food and clothes for the children and this may cause ongoing disagreement between the two parties. Some experts recommend that nesting should not be permanent. The strategy should be used at the beginning of the end of the relationship to provide kids some certainty at a time of emotional upheaval.
Another option for you to reduce the conflict in your divorce is to utilise mediation. Mediation involves you and your former spouse sitting down with an independent third person (a mediator) to attempt to resolve issues in dispute. This usually helpful process does not necessarily require that you and your former spouse face each other in same room. The mediator may move between you in separate rooms.
Before commencing Court Proceedings concerning children the parties are usually required to first attend mediation, which is also known as Family Dispute Resolution. Attending mediation is not compulsory when the parties have reached an agreement and are applying for Consent Orders. Nor is it compulsory in the case of family violence or the matter is urgent.
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