While you may be angry, sad and — admittedly — a little bitter about the end of your marriage, it is important to step back from your concerns about debts, who gets the house, or how much alimony or spousal maintenance you’re entitled to receive, and instead focus on the most important and most unpredictable factor in many divorces: the children.
Nearly half of all children in the United States will witness the divorce of their parents. Of those children, almost half will witness a parent divorce a second time. Statistics have shown that 20% of children of divorce have been shown to exhibit emotional problems including low self esteem and depression, as well as higher incidence of school drop out and a higher likelihood of living at or below the national poverty line.
For many children, the divorce of their parents is the first major crisis they will experience in life. However, there are some things parents can do to minimize this stress in their children.
1. MAINTAIN NORMALCY. Even if you and your spouse cannot agree to anything else in your divorce, you must resolve together to maintain a consistent visitation schedule with the non-custodian parent. Both parents need to be in the loop about school ceremonies, plays, sporting events, field trips and parent-teacher conferences because it is to the child’s benefit that both parents have the opportunity to attend these important events. If you and your spouse are relatively cordial and a family dinner can be arrange, it will only help your child cope with major transition taking place. Allow the non-custodial parent ample time to text, call, FaceTime or Skype his/her children, even if it is at specific times (after dinner and before bedtime, for instance).
1. ANSWER YOUR CHILD’S QUESTIONS. Speak honestly about the divorce and avoid fabricating what is happening. Children tend to be more aware and insightful than we think. You are most knowledgeable about your own child’s level of emotional maturity and you will need to keep this in mind as your talk about what is happening. A teenager will likely understand what it means to divorce, but a 6 year old may just need to be told that mom and dad are not going to live in the same house, but both will stay very involved in the child’s life. Assure your child that he or she will not be abandoned and is no way at fault. Maintain positivity when you talk about the divorce and the other spouse. Save negative feelings and rants for a session with a licensed therapist.
2. REMEMBER TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. If you have children, you cannot be a vacant, emotional zombie during your divorce. Find a way sleep 6-8 hours each night so that you are fresh and alert each day. Take a few minutes to be quiet, to put the divorce out of your mind, and to relax your muscles. If you are interested in meditation, take a few minutes to sit comfortably and imagine a ribbon of energy continuously looping itself from the very top of your head, up into the sky several feet and flowing around through your feet then back up and out of the top of your head. Picture this repeated looping vividly for a few minutes. This type of visualization will allow you to focus on something other than the divorce related details constantly churning in your mind. Eat healthily and fit in some physical activity daily, even if it is just taking your child for a walk around the neighborhood. Remember that your child needs you now more than ever and it is important for you to be the best version of yourself possible for your child. Your child will draw on that strength and calm. If you find yourself slipping into anxiety, unsurmountable levels of stress or deep depression, consult a professional for help as soon as possible so that you can quickly return to being a positive model for your child.
Since it is likely you are reading this article because you are concerned for your child’s well-being during your divorce proceeding, you should be aware that some courts will require a parenting course as a condition of your divorce. In Colorado, and particularly in El Paso County, parties going through a divorce which involves children are required to attend a parenting class called CFIT (Children and Families in Transition). The CFIT parenting class costs approximately $40 at the time of writing this blog post, to be paid in advance. Classes occur at the El Paso County Combined Courthouse several times a month. Parents must attend only one class, and they do not have to attend it together. While many parents believe they know everything they need to know about raising children, most of my clients tell me they left the class with some good information and ideas that help them help ease their children along through this stressful period. Find more information about CFIT, visit its informational page on the Colorado State Judicial Website.
Fortunately, 80% of children of divorced parents have been shown to grow into well-adjusted, productive, happy adults with healthy relationships. Follow the tips above to help your child become part of that majority.
— Marika Frady, Esq. is an attorney handling Divorce, Family Law, DUI and Bankruptcy cases in greater El Paso County, Colorado including Colorado Springs, Fountain, and Manitou Springs, as well as Teller, Pueblo and Douglas Counties. Connect with her on Google Plus today!