The divorce wars are heating up. And I’m not talking about those between divorced parents, but among those who study what happens to the children of these broken homes. However, there really is lots of good information from these studies parents can use to decrease the harmful effects of divorce on their youngsters.
It’s a well-known fact that parenting is one of the toughest jobs that any of us will ever undertake in our lifetime, especially once those children reach their teenage years. Adolescents these days are exposed to so many unpredictable circumstances through the media, Internet, peers and cell phone access that it is very difficult to keep track of what they’re doing and what potentially harmful information they might have access to. This task is even more difficult for divorced parents.
With more than 1 million children yearly experiencing the divorce of their parents, the futures of these youngsters are of concern from the halls of Congress debating funds for marriage and after school programs to the homes of parents everywhere.
When children live in more than one home, it takes good communication between households to keep an eye on what they are doing. Divorced parents need to be aware of what their adolescents are allowed to do and access in each other’s homes. This can only be accomplished through direct, frequent communication.
A huge mistake that many divorced parents make is trying to communicate through their children. This is a mistake for several reasons. The main reason is that it places kids in the middle. It also pressures a child to be able to deliver a message word for word, which studies have shown most adults can’t do.
Another reason why communication through your child is ineffective is that it allows room for your child to manipulate the messages, which can result in misdirected anger. Most people, adults and children alike, don’t enjoy the role of playing messenger between two people. The messenger is often in the position of being exposed to the person’s reaction to the message, which isn’t usually positive when the parents are divorced.
Divorced parents do best to remember that their children want and need to be left out of the emotional baggage that may exist between them. The children need to feel that they are permitted to love both of their parents. Having to hear responses about messages they are delivering may make this difficult and even cause emotional damage to your kids.
The studies also show that children of divorced parents are more apt than those living in intact families to feel divided between two households with different values. And they are often asked to keep secrets about these differences.
Being torn between these differing values leaves them without clear guidance on what is right or wrong, so they end up turning instead to friends and siblings for support and guidance.
Another devastating side affect for children of divorced parents is that they are more likely to struggle with loss, isolation, loneliness and suffering then kids from intact homes.
If divorced parents are able to agree to put their differences aside when they are dealing with parenting issues, things can run much more smoothly. If the children know that their divorced parents are openly communicating about their activities, they will feel more secure and less likely to turn outside the home for guidance. This will also greatly decrease the ability of the children to manipulate their divorced parents.
Studies have shown that children crave having a set routine. It’s comforting for them to know what is in store for them, especially during the school year, when they are also faced with learning and peer issues. Through good communication children can benefit from this routine, even if their time is divided between two households.
Due to the high rate of divorce there are services and support systems in most communities for divorced parents and their kids. These services include support groups as well as counseling and literature. Many of these services are available free of charge or for a very minimal fee.
Having a support group gives parents a place to vent without putting their children in the middle and allows children to have a healthy outlet for their own anger and resentment over the loss of their intact family.
Many parents who divorce believe they have done irreversible damage to their children. However, many of the problems children experience following parental divorce are not due merely to separation from one parent.
Recent research indicates that children’s adjustment following parental divorce is dependent, to a large extent, on the situations existing in the two homes after the divorce. Fortunately, parents often have control over many of the post-divorce factors that affect their child’s adjustment.