Written By Jennifer Pell
Divorces are stressful and painful for everyone involved, but the little ones often are the ones who suffer the most, and good parents are well aware of this. A survey conducted for the American Sociological Review revealed that around 50% of American children have experienced, or will experience, the divorce of their parents. Understandably, parents are so emotionally entangled in their own struggles and the processes of a divorce that they might overlook the needs of their children. They are sometimes haunted by the guilt and fear that what they're doing might affect their kid's health and happiness, but it's possible to manage these feelings and prevent the worst from happening.
Keep communication open
Some parents believe it's best to stay together for the sake of the children, even if the marriage itself is not working. However, the constant fighting and tension of a bad relationship can be even more harmful for the kids than a reasonably well-carried out divorce. Dealing with emotional distress at home is psychologically damaging for the little ones, so don't let your guilt or your fears guide your decisions, even for their sake. Instead, you should be honest with your children and keep open channels of communication from both sides. Make sure they understand they will be loved no matter what happens, and that they will never be alone, even in the toughest of times.
Take care of yourself
Big changes in the family such as a divorce are stressful enough for children, but the way the conflict affects parents might make it more difficult for them to take care of their kids when they need it the most. That's why, as a parent, you need to take some time for yourself, find ways to relieve your stress and get advice and support from other people, be it friends, other family members or even professional help like a psychologist and/or support groups. The more help and healing you can get, the better suited you will be to take proper care of your children, and also to manage your divorce as well as possible.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Breaking up marriages can be painful for everyone involved, but at the same time, it's a strong opportunity for improving the climate of the family, finding more fulfilling relationships and solving problems due to emotional tension. Take care of yourself and your children, and help them understand that this is part of life and that you will always be a big family. Guilt doesn't help you or your children: it just adds more distress to the whole family.
Talking to someone who has been in your situation, and/or a therapist, will help you see things in a different light and feel less alone, and it's a great way to cope with anxiety. Find a therapist for your children if you feel it's necessary, in order to help them through the process and reduce the chances of lasting emotional scars. Helping your kids as much as you can during these times and sharing quality time with them in spite of it all will lower your anxiety as well as theirs. Whenever you feel guilty about what they're going through, remember that you're helping them learn how to manage real life events they may face themselves when they're older. Every parent makes mistakes, but if difficult situations are handled with communication, emotional holding and the right help, your children will grow up stronger and better suited for the things to come.