One of the main reasons I decided to start a coaching practice was primarily to help the children. The interesting part is that I quickly realized that the best way to help the children was actually to help the parents. Even by helping only one of the parents through divorce, the challenge for the child changes dramatically.
The fear of the effects of divorce on children is so apparent that in many cases couples that are in a miserable and dysfunctional marriage stay together thinking that they are protecting the children. Unfortunately, in many cases, the children suffer even more by witnessing the fighting, discomfort, unease and poor example of what a marriage is supposed to be. I am by no means an advocate of divorce, and I do strongly feel that couples should both put forth serious effort at seeking help in an attempt to save a marriage before they call it quits, however, in cases where both parties are not willing to do so, or have tried and simply can not maintain a peaceful and loving household, the option of divorce doesn’t necessarily mean that the children are going to be damaged for life. As a coach and a divorced mother of an 8-year old boy, I can confidently say that if the parents handle the divorce with the children’s best interest at mind, the result can be quite beneficial for all parties involved.
Children’s lives are filled with difficult transitions starting from the first day of kindergarten or daycare. They continue to experience various different challenges such as entering middle school, going off to college and then what I feel to be the most challenging, entering the world of independent adulthood. As parents, we do not have super powers to protect are children from all the difficulties and challenges of life, but we definitely can make it easier for them through our support, guidance and most of all…a positive attitude! This is no different when it comes to divorce.
Many of our children’s beliefs come from what they have seen, heard and felt throughout their childhood. It is a parent’s responsibility to be cognizant that their daily actions both verbal and non-verbal are creating part of their children’s belief system. Ultimately the effects of divorce will be determined in the way the parents handle the divorce. If a parent is going to continuously express both verbally and non-verbally that this is the worst possible thing that could happen, that is exactly the belief the child will develop about divorce.
Picture this, you are with your young child the first day of school and he/she is crying hysterically, holding on to your legs as though his life depends on it and refuses to enter the classroom. Inside, you want to breakdown and start crying, grab your child quickly in your arms and run back home! However, as parents, this is not what we do. We maintain our composure, put a smile on our face, and start explaining all of the positive benefits of this life transition to our children. Yes, some of you may be thinking that there are no positive benefits of divorce, and if that is your belief then that is how your child will see it. Make no mistake, divorce can be hard on all parties involved, financially and emotionally, however there are always benefits and possible positive frames on every challenge in life!
Parents must focus on the opportunities of new beginnings, the possibility of living in peaceful environments, while maintaining the mindset that life is ever changing so the key factor is in how you cope with the change not the change itself. Having said that, ultimately it is not necessarily the actual divorce that creates a negative impact on children, it is how the parents are coping with the divorce.