By: Julie Davelman, Ph.D.
Divorce is a process during which family life changes, especially the lives of the children. However, negative effects that may be seen in children after the divorce may have actually begun long before the legal papers were filed. Nevertheless, when thinking about children, many people may think that “Married parents are good, divorced parents are bad,” but things are rarely that simple. When a marriage that is full of conflict ends, children often do better than they would have, had their parents remained together. A divorce process that helps the parents separate in a relatively amicable way, such as the collaborative process, actually keeps the parents focused on the children and leaves parents with the energy to support their children through the post-divorce adjustment. For example, it is the role of the collaborative team to help parents learn how to be civil towards each other demonstrating to their children that they will not have to deal with the parents’ conflict forever.
Tips for Parenting After Divorce
Most divorcing parents worry about how their child will adjust after the divorce, but they often do not know what to do to make matters better. These tips may help parents help their children thrive:
Parents need to look at their own parenting. Often due to the guilt regarding the divorce or emotional exhaustion, parents may not enforce discipline and limits on the children. When there are suddenly no consequences for acting out, children are more likely to do so. Therefore, the rules about what the child is and is not allowed to do should not change because the parents are now divorced. Children may adjust to the divorce more easily if there is consistency with such things as bedtimes and screen times that both parents agree to enforce.
When a child becomes part of the conflict, it disrupts the parent-child relationship. However, the child needs a strong relationship with each parent in order to adjust to their “new normal” in a healthy way. The more the parents can keep the child out of their battles the better off the child will be in the long run.
Consider focusing on how effective each parent parents during his/her own time instead of the strength of the co-parenting relationship. Therefore, parents would benefit from putting their energy into being the most stable and consistent parent they can be instead of worrying whether or not the other parent is “doing it wrong.”
Since the collaborative process is designed to support the family, parents may have more strength left for the kind of parenting that would help reduce the effects of the divorce on the children and give the parents a chance to be the parent they want to be.
About The Author
Dr. Julie Davelman is a psychologist with Abrams Psychological Services and a member of the Monmouth County Collaborative Divorce and Mediation Professionals Group. In addition to treating a wide gamut of clinical symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, her areas of expertise include forensics and parenting issues. Using a goal-driven approach, Dr. Davelman works with individuals, couples and families to develop the skills they need to be healthy, loving and supportive of themselves and those in their lives.