What Parents Need to Know
Happily, the majority of children whose parents divorce
do not have significant issues that require seeking professional help. However,
more children of divorce do experience a greater number of problems than
children of intact families. This knowledge can help parents stay tuned in --
to recognize when children need assistance.
The most current research studies indicate that children's experiences
from the divorce of their parents depends a great deal on the following five
First, it only makes sense that a child, just like a parent,
will encounter many new life stressors, including less stability due
to changes in relationships, economic status, residence, schools, and child
Secondly, children of divorce typically experience more difficulty
if they suffer the loss of a parent. The physical absence of the parent,
or at least the loss of more frequent contact, can hurt a child deeply. Certainly
economics change. But more importantly, parents may not realize everything that
they provide for the child emotionally, or what their child especially depends
upon, from each parent. Children learn very unique things from each of their
parents, and they need their involvement.
Thirdly, a child's success in adapting can hinge on the parents'
ability to adjust to the restructuring of the family. If the parents are
able to maneuver through the typical stages of loss and grieving to reach a
place of forgiveness and acceptance, the child will typically follow. However,
if the parent has an unusually hard time meeting these challenges, both parent
and child may suffer, unless they ask for help. When a parent fails to adjust
and move on to a satisfactory new life, there is greater risk that a child can
be alienated in some manner from the other parent.
A fourth issue, persistent high inter-parental conflict is
particularly devastating to a child. Although conflict is normal in families,
when a child is exposed to frequent, high hostility or strife between the parents,
it can be extremely hurtful and long lasting. Parents who truly love their children
are often completely unaware of the harmful effects that their ongoing battles
have upon the children.
The last factor, parental competence, is another key
to a child's successful growth and development. It is vital for the parent,
not the child, to be in charge. In an effort to ease the pain of the divorce,
some parents have a tendency to overcompensate by giving in to the child. They
become too lenient or lax in setting and enforcing family rules and consequences.
Heightened awareness can help identify resources to help you
and your child. The important thing is to make use of these resources, if you
decide they are needed.