Helping Kids Through the Divorce Process: Strategies for Success

One key factor for most parents who contemplate divorce is the effect that their separation will have on the children. In addition to realizing that their parents will no longer be together, issues of joint or shared custody can create new residential and educational scenarios to which kids must adjust.

Sociologists and psychologists have studied the effects of divorce on children for decades, and these studies generally reveal that the effect on children is relatively small. However, some studies suggest an increased chance that a child could experience difficulties at school and/or behavioral problems or challenges getting along with one or both parents after divorce.

Even parents who fully understand that divorce will be a positive thing for the kids should keep several tips in mind to protect young hearts and minds:

  • While difficult disputes between parents about custody and visitation may arise, such discussions should be kept within a formal legal setting.
  • As much as possible, parents should work to keep kids' routines intact, including play dates, sports and other activities.
  • Each parent should focus on realistic sharing of parenting responsibilities to foster strong relationships going forward (recognizing, of course, the effect of domestic violence or substance abuse issues).
  • Fathers and mothers should be attuned to increases in child anxiety and make appropriate use of family counseling services when necessary.

One of the best strategies for helping kids avoid adverse effects from a difficult divorce is for the parents to make use of divorce mediation and other appropriate dispute resolution methods during the divorce process. In addition to reducing the expense of divorce, working with a family law mediator can provide a neutral environment to express differences and forge acceptable solutions that recognize the interests of all family members.