Just as adults experience psychological effects from divorce, children can also struggle with emotional and mental health challenges. There is no denying the negative effects of physical separation, increased anxiety, chronic depression or perceptions of instability.
Children are vulnerable and susceptible to mental health concerns, making their safety and wellbeing a priority during a divorce. These tips can help you save and nurture your child’s emotional and mental health.
1. Eliminate selfish co-parenting
While divorce proceedings often create conflict between couples, any animosity, anger or frustration cannot interfere with parental responsibilities. Establish ground rules and expectations for co-parenting out of the child’s presence but with the child’s wellbeing in mind. Do not focus on what works for each parent, but on what is best for the child.
2. Keep your child out of the process
Though you should keep your child informed and answer questions with age-appropriate information, do not argue, criticize, demean or vent about the divorce or the situation. This can cause children to feel torn, confused or even guilty about not being able to help you. Do not use your child as a mediator between the adults or to manipulate the other parent.
3. Validate and respect your child’s feelings
Your children will undergo a range of emotions and may have behaviors that reflect these transitions. Be understanding and validate these emotions, providing support through conversations, affection, professional counseling or other resources. Never tell a child to toughen up or just deal with it.
The attention and understanding you show a child can support their mental health throughout the divorce process. Do your best to protect the fragility and sensitivity of your child’s emotions and feelings.