Over one million marriages end in divorce each year, which is a staggering number to say the least. The civil war that sometimes happens between married couples can potentially have a huge negative impact on children. Caught in the crossfire, these children can become emotional casualties of a divorce. They often struggle from adjustment disorders in addition to other psychosocial/mental health issues. Divorce can be characterized as an emotional, legal, psychological, financial, familial, and physical divide that can be difficult and even traumatizing to everyone involved. Despite the challenges that come with this, there are many things you can do to help ease the process for your children. For couples going through a separation or divorce these tips and strategies may help you navigate through the challenges that come with the process:
- Do not act on feelings of anger/aggression. Acting on feelings of anger may lead you to do something regrettable and without recourse. Finding outlets, whether it is journaling, exercise, therapy, or support groups can help you manage/express your anger in a healthy way.
- Ask a professional. Consulting with a professional such as a lawyer, therapist, divorce mediator, etc.… can help you find out what your options are. Taking a multifaceted approach to challenges can help you and your loved ones sustain a healthy quality of life during and after a divorce.
- Make a plan for the future that reflects the big picture. Even if the marriage is coming to an end, your role obligations and personal goals do not have to go to the wayside. Investing in long-term goals can be conducive to moving forward so that you can focus on aspects of your life that are in your control.
- Be sure to engage in self-care activities that promote wellness and good health. A divorce can leave a void in both partners that has the potential to cause feelings of isolation, emptiness, rejection, low self-worth/esteem, and social withdrawal. For men, it can be very emasculating which can cause feelings of guilt, shame, anger and resentment. Being proactive tends to be the key whether it’s in the form of therapy, exercise, spending time with friends/family, or a combination of activities.
- Remember that others are going through the same thing and you are not alone! There are support groups and mental health professionals that can help you cope with and adjust to the stress/unpleasant emotions that come with divorce.
- Learn anything and everything there is to learn about the divorce process. There are a myriad of resources and information you can get online or from your divorce attorney. They can connect you with services and other professionals whocan help you and your family during this difficult time.
- Regardless of what happens, you are still a parent. Do not force your children to take sides and remember their innocence. Children tend to blame themselves when parents separate, so they are highly susceptible and vulnerable at this point. Find a therapist who specializes in adolescents/family therapy/divorce to help them manage their own feelings of guilt/sadness. Therapy can help children maintain healthy relationships with both parents in addition to promoting healthy relationships outside of the family.
- Be sure to spend time with your children and help them navigate their feelings throughout the divorce process. A divorce has the potential to destabilize their world and effective parenting/support can help them find stability and help prevent social, academic, psychological issues.
By Jimmy Passe, MA, Ed.S, LPC, LCADC, CCS, NCC