Children & Divorce Mediation
Divorce is extremely difficult on both parents, but take a moment to think about how extraordinarily difficult it is on children who haven't yet fully developed and acquired much needed coping skills. How do children react to divorce? The most troublesome problem for children of divorce is being exposed to parental conflict. It causes children terrible suffering and serious problems in their development. Children from high conflict divorces have more aggressive and defiant behavior problems and more emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, they exhibit lower self-esteem and poorly developed coping skills. Parental cooperation and the absence of hostile conflict are paramount for children's secure adjustment.
Children blame themselves for their parents' fighting and they're scared about what's going on and what will happen next. If their parents' fighting is extremely intense, they will feel the need to pick a side in order to help minimize the anxiety and confusion that they feel. They will be afraid to talk about their feelings because they fear it will increase their parent's fighting.
Research indicates that children from a home in which there is prolonged, intense fighting are much more likely to view themselves in an overly negative way. Prolonged divorce battles convince children that bad things will continue to happen to them and that they are powerless to do anything about it. Many children become withdrawn and display classic signs of depression. Others act out becoming destructive and angry. The negative effects on school performance can be dramatic.
The single, most important thing that you can do to protect your children from the negative effects of divorce is to lower the level of conflict between you and your partner. Specifically, don't belittle each other in front of the children; don't argue in front of them; don't expect them to be your support system, this is far too much for them. And, don't make them choose sides; they deserve and need the love and attention of both parents.
High conflict divorces are harmful and destructive to children. However, you have the responsibility to protect and nourish your children. Here are some constructive tips on what you can do. Encourage your children to have a positive relationship with the other parent; they love, want and need both of you. Pay attention and listen carefully to them; they will communicate to you in verbal and nonverbal ways such as through artwork, writings, and behavior. Try and keep daily and visitation schedules consistent and predictable. Talk to your children about the divorce as children are likely to develop fears of abandonment and separation anxieties if they don't understand the situation; the best way to prevent these symptoms from developing is to allow your children to feel more in control over their lives. Make sure the children know that they are not to blame for the divorce. Children often blame themselves and may internalize their feelings about the divorce. They are prone to thinking that if they were somehow better children their parents would remain together. Assure them of your love and comfort them. Resist the urge to rely on your child for emotional support and reach out to another adult instead. Seek the help of a support group, good friends, family members and a therapist. You and your spouse have a responsibility to your children to reduce their anxiety, so consider creating a parenting plan (a tool used by Montclair Divorce Mediation), which is a written agreement about how you will raise your children as a divorced couple. This will help minimize fighting over the children and help everyone understand what is expected to happen.
Your children will turn to you to find out how they can navigate the painful process of divorce. Despite the enormous stress you are under, it is critical that you be a good role model to your children. Keep in mind what's in your children's best interests.
Unfortunately, in many cases, one or both parents use their children as pawns during the divorce process. It is critical for parents to realize that this is the worst possible scenario for children. Parents should take the time to educate themselves about the serious negative effect divorce may have on children. Search out helpful articles and consider getting the entire family into therapy to help all of you through this huge emotional upheaval in your lives. There are also free support groups available. Learn how to protect your children as best you can. Make a conscience decision not to involve them in your divorce. By doing this, you will help your children heal quicker and adjust to their new life circumstances, and the possibility of long-term damage to their emotional well being will be minimized.
Divorce mediation is one way to accomplish the desired divorce while maintaining a level of objectivity and mutual respect critical to the well-being of your children. Investigate local divorce mediation early and thoroughly. Divorce mediation just might save you many headaches, heartaches and financial problems.
Nicholas De Metro, Attorney at Law and principal of Montclair Divorce Mediation, Montclair, NJ, has dedicated his Northern New Jersey practice completely to the process of divorce mediation. As a lawyer practicing since 1991, Nick De Metro experienced the negative impact divorce litigation has on New Jersey couples and families. Mr. De Metro invites anyone considering divorce litigation to investigate the many logistical, financial and emotional benefits of divorce mediation.