Divorce is stressful for children
You may already know this, but divorce can be very stressful for children. The divorce process requires children to try and understand the changes in their life and routine and, truth be told, they may not always respond to stress and change well. Children often bear the brunt of divorce, where they see their parents arguing, resulting in the breakdown of the marriage, and the ultimate upheaval of the divorce.
Children are the most impacted in a divorce
Divorce often breaks the hearts of children, who see their parents as heroes that protect them. Children especially tend to be uprooted from their school, their friends, and their social network as parents decide to split up and lead separate lives, often moving to distant locations to start new lives.
A divorce can be stressful for children because they often “lose” one parent when the other parent gets custody, care and control. For a child that has grown up with the care and love of both parents, being separated from half of their family is very hard for the child to cope with, emotionally and practically. Parents also argue a lot after a divorce and sometimes, a lot of bad things are said about the other parent. For the children, it becomes apparent that their lives have changed forever.
A divorce often changes a child’s life forever
Divorce also results in new family structures, as both parents move on and often remarry or get into new intimate relationships. Because there is a new family structure, the children’s support network is altered and their daily routines become different. They may not be able to see the people that they used to see, or do the things that they used to do. Even if they could, it would not be as a family. Often, children will also have to change schools.
How can parents reduce the stress of divorce for children?
If there is a will, there is a way. Indeed, parents can do something to lessen the stress and pain for their children during a divorce. While the marriage has ended, parents owe an obligation to their children to give them a proper family life – and that means allowing each parent time to be with their children, and to spend precious moments with the children. After all, childhood is an important time of each child’s life.
Communicate and Plan Early
Making divorce less stressful for children involves managing the divorce process from the end of the family, right from the time the decision of divorce is made. Parents need to plan how to structure the divorce so that children are minimally impacted. Items such as custody, access, and finances, need to be planned by both parents if they wish to be responsible. It is also important that children do not become a pawn in the game of divorce. Children are not bargaining chips to be used and thrown about while vying for a bigger share of the marriage assets. Indeed, the split of assets in a divorce should not be linked to the rights of the children.
Parents can help make divorce less stressful for children by communicating openly, remaining cooperative and consistent as co-parents, and helping the children adapt to the changes the divorce brings.
Be fair in giving access rights
Parents can help make divorce less stressful for children by pursuing an inter-parenting arrangement, and not trying to block the other parent from seeing the child. In this regard, it is important to understand that the right of a parent to access a child, should be seen as the flipside of the right of the child to see his or her parent. The child that grows up without seeing one parent is being deprived of developing a meaningful relationship with either a father or mother, and such move, perhaps pushed by lawyers as a courtroom victory, can be harmful for the child who has a close relationship with the estranged parent.
Address these rights in the divorce order
The decree nisi is the document that is granted by the court, to crystallize the terms of the divorce. In that decree nisi, the terms of access, custody care and control, and guardianship, are recorded. During the divorce procedure, a lawyer may try to persuade the client not to put in certain terms in order to obtain the consent of the other party more easily.
However, the problem is that, when something is not written in the decree nisi, it becomes arguable on what was actually allowed or granted. Therefore, it is becomes crucial that these important items of access, custody, and finances for the child, are spelt out clearly to avoid any dispute between the parents.
A well-planned divorce has a better chance of helping the child to grow up as a normal person rather than an emotionally-scarred person. Responsible parents should understand this and plan the divorce in a way that minimizes the impact for the child. Withholding visitation rights of a parent to visit the child, for example, may cause more harm than good to the child. Parents going through a divorce would be best advised to spend time with a lawyer to understand divorce arrangements which minimize the impact of divorce on their children.
Thanks for Reading
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. Kindly consult with a lawyer if you are interested to find out how to reduce stress for children in divorce proceedings.
If this article resonates with you, consider reading some related articles from our archives.
- Custody of children – who gets the kids?
- Post divorce issues – reasonable access to children
- Spending time with children after divorce
We would like to thank and acknowledge Sunvani Hoang as the photographer of the image. The image was made available under a creative commons licence.