Divorce is one of the hardest things couples can go through. And even though you are facing the big “D,” that doesn’t meant that the children have to suffer. In fact, your children may be better off with parents who are happily divorced, than unhappily wed. However, the transition itself can be difficult on the entire family, having a negative impact on the mental health of your children, behavior and academic achievement if not handled properly.
If you are considering a divorce or are currently going through one, here are 5 tips for successful co-parenting when it’s all over:
1. Identify a Struggle.
If your child is struggling after your divorce – that’s pretty common. In fact, divorce can be hard on the whole family but for children the impact of a permanent separation may be more complicated. Because young people are dependent on parental support, the split can cause confusion during this vulnerable time in life. As a child, the following are common indicators of a struggle coping with the divorce:
- Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork
- Frequent crying or emotional distress
- Headaches or stomach problems
- Increased separation anxiety
- Feigned interest in activities once enjoyed
- Premature interest in sex
- Increased conflict with peers
- Over-functioning in responsibilities
- Extreme negativity or criticism
- Risky sexual behaviors
- Increased aggression
- Poor academic performance
- Alcohol or drug use
2. Embrace the Changes
Your children may see a divorce between you and your spouse as a challenge. After all, there are so many different changes that occur when parents split into two households. This may include a new home, personal items, friends a new school and more. All of these adaptations may feel overwhelming to a child but as a parent you can embrace all of the changes as an opportunity to develop positivity.
Divorced parents are able to realize the win-win of two households and thus developing a co-parenting approach to the family. This way, children may even thrive after they realize they have the same family and a loving home is now in two separate places. The sense of belonging is usually restored in time after embracing the changes of co-parenting.
3. Respecting Boundaries
After a divorce, it is common for the children to be a reason for arguments between the parents. Fights can become obsessive and controlling of the child in order to “gain ground,” in the argument. Respecting the boundaries of your child is so important after a divorce so that you do not use them to gain post-divorce leverage. While you may be tempted to – leave the children out of arguments after a divorce. It is the best way to show them that you understand divorce isn’t easy and they have limits too.
4. Forgive Fast
By the time two people divorce children may have already been exposed to years of disruption in their everyday lives. It is common for couples considering a divorce to argue, become cold and silent or even violent over the course of a breakup. This type of abnormal behavior in the home can be extremely difficult on children. Children need to know that you are able to forgive your ex fast after a divorce to show them that now, everything is going to be OK. By displaying your ability to make peace with your ex, you can prove to your children they still have a safe place to feel at home.
5. Make Kids #1
When your family has recently split apart in a divorce, adjusting to the changes can feel strange. Kids are more sensitive to feelings of displacement, abandonment and loneliness after a divorce than the parents so it is your responsibility to put your children at the top of your priority list. By making them feel like they are #1, it can help to ease feelings of anxiety and overall discomfort after a divorce.
You may want to encourage your child to join a new club or team or take up a new hobby. Any type of activity they enjoy doing supports their self-confidence and allows them to shine.
Talking to a Family Counselor or a Parent Coordinator
After a divorce you may start to see the worst come out in yourself, your ex-spouse and even your children. Remember, to take the process slowly and gently. If behaviors turn into bigger obstacles, talk to a family counselor or a parent coordinator in a high conflict divorce about developing a plan beyond these 5 tips for successful co-parenting after divorce. They can work with you in individual or family sessions to help through the transitional time after a divorce. It is easier said than done to focus on your children during divorce so if you are able to consider a co-parenting session it could help.
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