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Divorce Can Affect Children’s Mental Health

Parents Who Divorce Can Help Avoid Their Children’s Long-Term Mental Health Effects

With divorce rates hovering at around 50%, many children will experience their parents going through one. While some children will be able to work through and overcome the intense emotions that accompany the many changes at the end of their parents’ marriage, others will experience the emotional effects of the divorce long after the paperwork is finalized. Parents, however, can help their children work through these emotions and protect them so they can grow up emotionally stable and secure.

Children and Divorce

As you and your spouse go through the process of divorce, you might be fully immersed in dealing with your own emotions related to the end of your marriage. You might be experiencing a range of emotions, from rage to fear to grief. You might be busy and focused on the changes you are going through, meetings with your divorce attorneys , and negotiations for the divorce settlement. If you are embroiled in a bitter, contentious divorce, you might also be distracted and not even notice your own children’s suffering. However, just like the parents experience a range of intense emotions during the divorce, the children also suffer as they witness what seems like the end of their family.

When children realize that their idea of family and their identity as part of that family are threatened by the divorce, they begin a traumatic process. They experience emotions such as:

  • Loss
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Resentment

Children might also act out due to these emotions. They will struggle with processing all the changes and will need your parental support as they work through the emotions and changes.

Future Risks for Children of Divorce

Children do not only struggle with their emotions during their parents’ divorce negotiations. As the marriage itself unravels, children might begin exhibiting signs of their struggles, acting out and isolating themselves from their peers. And as they grow, children of divorce are often at a higher risk than children from homes with married parents of experiencing depression, anxiety and addiction. Additionally, they also can struggle academically. The traumatic experience of divorce can even lead the children to develop physical and mental health issues. For these reasons, it is important to try and be as amicable as you can while you are co-parenting.

The Parents’ Ongoing Relationship Continues to Affect Children

The way you and your children’s other parent get along before, during and after the divorce will continue to affect your children. If your marriage is ending, you and your spouse might be in a situation where you resent and do not trust each other. You might want to see each other as little as possible. You might even wish to communicate solely through your divorce lawyer. However, the way you communicate and relate to your children’s other parent will affect the children themselves, even if you think you are being good about keeping your issues from the children.

Children are quite perceptive, and your views of the other parent can affect the way they themselves view and relate to the other parent. This can be problematic as it is often in the children’s best interests to continue a healthy relationship with both of their parents. If you and your spouse cannot be in the same room without throwing accusations at each other, your children might feel like they need to pick a side to support that one parent, affecting their relationship with the other parent. You might ask your family lawyer to guide you in how to communicate with your spouse during this period in a way that does not harm the children.

Working Together to Co-Parent Healthy, Emotionally Stable Children

To help raise healthy, emotionally stable children, you will need to figure out a way to work together to co-parent your children. Your family law attorney might assist you with suggestions for better communication with your children’s other parent. This means having to learn healthier ways to communicate with each other that do not devolve into screaming matches or accusations. Consulting with your divorce attorney might be a good way to start figuring out the best way to develop a strong co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse.

Successful co-parenting requires commitment from both of you to respect each other, cooperate, and put the children first. This is not always easy when you are still working through the issues that tore your marriage apart. However, if both parents are not committed to working in a constructive manner for the benefit of their children’s well-being, the traumatic effects on the children can continue and even worsen. If it seems like the divorce is headed for an all-out court battle, but you are concerned about the effects on the children, you might speak to your divorce lawyer about the different options to resolve your divorce issues that might better support a positive co-parenting relationship.

Choosing the Custody and Parenting Time Schedule that Works Best for the Family

Part of supporting your children through and after the divorce will include resolving your custody and parenting time issues. You might be tempted to fight for sole legal and physical custody of your children. However, you should remember that custody and parenting time is about the whole family. In most cases, judges want to see both parents involved in their children’s lives unless there is a history or risk of abuse or other harmful behavior on the part of one of the parents. Part of what you will probably discuss with your family law attorney will be the options when it comes to custody and parenting time. To determine custody, judges consider many factors, including:

  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • The child’s age, their different needs and their preference regarding custody
  • Each parent’s ability to care for and meet the child’s needs
  • The environment in each parent’s home

Once custody is established, you will need to work together with your ex-spouse to create a custody and parenting time schedule that outlines when the children will be with each of you and how and when exchanges between parents will take place. The schedule will need to be based both on the children’s school and extracurricular schedules as well as the parents’ work and activities schedules. Figuring out a schedule that works for all can show the children that even if the parents are divorced, they remain committed to the family.

A Parenting Plan to Support the Children

The schedule will become one of the main items included in your parenting plan. Having a detailed parenting plan can be one of the ways you support and protect your children from the negative emotional effects of your divorce. Collaborating to create a detailed parenting plan can support you as a parent as you go on your co-parenting journey and can prevent additional conflicts related to the children. You can also speak with your family lawyer for guidance on what to include in your parenting plan. Besides your custody schedule, you might include:

  • The rules, chores and routines that will be followed in both households
  • The way birthdays, holidays, graduation and other special events will be handled
  • Which parent will keep the children’s important documents such as their passports and medical records
  • How decisions on the children’s education, religious upbringing and other issues will be made
  • How conflicts between the parents will be resolved
  • The methods of communication that will be used between the parents

Supporting your children and protecting them from the emotional effects of divorce might begin with the type of divorce you choose to have. If you want a lawyer who can support you in your vision for divorce and understands how important your children’s well-being is to you, you can contact us by calling 908-645-1000 to set up an appointment at our offices in Watchung or Red Bank, New Jersey.

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