Wondering how your divorce will affect your children is a natural concern. After all, in most cases, divorce is undeniably difficult for kids in the short term.
But most kids are remarkably resilient. They usually find surprising ways to move forward, despite their parents’ splitting up.
Here are three important things to know as you seek to raise a kid who will be well adjusted for the long run.
Most children whose parents got divorced grow up to become well-adjusted adults.
Sometimes parents believe it’s better to stay in a troubled marriage for the sake of the children than get divorced. By staying together, unhappily married parents can supposedly spare their kids the trauma of divorce.
In practice, however, most kids eventually bounce back from their parents’ divorce quite well. Kids tend do this even if, in the short term, they experience psychological problems such as anger, depression or anxiety.
Within a year or two, these problems have ended or at least become manageable for most kids. Ample social science research has confirmed this capacity for kids to recover from their parents’ divorce.
The most important factor affecting how kids will do after divorce is parental conflict.
Many factors inevitably affect the post-divorce adjustment of particular kids. These include the child’s age at the time of the divorce and the post-divorce custody and parenting plan arrangements.
Recently, however, researchers have zeroed in on a key factor that affects kids regardless of whether their parents get divorced: parental conflict causing kids to feel torn between them.
When parents fight in ways that make the child feel torn between their parents, it raises stress levels (as measured by cortisol) in the kids. The result is not only anxiety, but what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.”
What cognitive dissonance means is the kids feel forced to align psychologically with one parent or the other. This can happen regardless of whether the parents get divorced or not.
Either way, the discord and dissonance can cause the child’s relationship with the other parent to suffer. And this, in turn, may lead long-term negative consequences for the child’s relationships with others.
Avoiding parental conflict that stresses out kids remains important after divorce. But how amiable you are able to be with your ex depends on the circumstances.
It’s easy to say exes should strive to be civil. In some cases, though, such as abuse or domestic violence, that simply isn’t possible.
A lot also depends on how you and the other parent establish new ways of doing things after divorce. As we noted in a post last May, psychologists are increasingly studying parenting after divorce, looking at the different styles parents employ.
Some of those styles are more likely to help kids after divorce than others.