Know Your Kids Are Adapting Well to Your Divorce
By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
As a divorced parent you owe it to your children to diligently watch their behavior, listen to their conversations and be aware of any changes that may be due to challenges related to the divorce. Children can adapt well to life after divorce. But it’s up to you to catch signs they may be confused, anxious, insecure or in other ways having problems in their new reality.
Here are 5 ways to know your children are doing well, despite your divorce:
1. They continue to thrive at school
When school grades fall or aggressive behavior develops, parents need to be proactive and not wait on the sidelines. Conversations with teachers and school counselors can give you a better perspective on your child’s needs. Don’t hesitate to talk to your children as well to learn more about what’s going on and how they feel about the changes and new challenges in their lives. It’s imperative that you listen and not lecture. Allow them to vent so they feel heard. Only then can you be helpful in finding useful solutions.
2. They’re making and keeping friends
If your children drop close friendships following your divorce they may be feeling shame, anger, embarrassment, guilt or other negative emotions. Some kids feel helpless at home and express these frustrations with classmates and friends. They may be misunderstood or rejected by these friends at a time when support is most needed. Giving them access to a compassionate child therapist can be helpful for them – and for you.
3. They can talk about the divorce without high emotions
If your children are not intimidated or afraid to talk to you about the divorce, their other parent and time spent with them, that’s a good sign. It usually shows a healthy level of adjustment. Usually it also means both parents understand the importance of keeping lines of communication open. Mature parents don’t compete for their children’s approval or attention and they’re aware of the dangers of making kids feel guilty or shameful for loving their other parent.
4. Their activity level hasn’t changed
Well-adjusted children have energy for after-school clubs, sports and other programs. If your child opts out of activities they used to enjoy, be aware. Usually that’s a sign that they are having coping issues with changes in family life. It’s wise to talk with a counselor and get involved with a support group for help before things progress in more negative directions.
5. There are no new signs of depression, aggression or acting out
Kids who handle divorce well are comfortable with themselves and others. They behave with compassion and sensitivity to other children who may be hurting. Children coping with emotional issues and low self-esteem often show signs of depression, lethargy or age-regression such as bed-wetting. Others may act out aggressively with siblings, friends – even their pets. They lose their capacity for empathy and caring for others. This is a red flag warning that they may be in emotional distress and need a strong support system. Bring in school guidance counselors, co-parenting coaches and other mental health professionals to help you provide this safety net.
Parents who demonstrate a healthy attitude about their divorce usually have children who cope better. Never take for granted that the divorce is not affecting your child. Be diligent in watching for signs of problems. If issues arise, seek professional help immediately. That can make the difference between temporary setbacks and real long-term issues that create emotional and psychological problems with life-long consequences.