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Your divorce may impact your children in a variety of ways. That impact depends on your children's emotional make-up and their previous experiences.
Equally important is and how the people around your children -- especially you and the other parent -- react to the divorce and provide comfort and support to your children through this turbulent time.
Thankfully, the effects of divorce on children are not always bad. In many instances, divorce can have a positive impact on children. It frees them from the chronic stress that comes from living with parents in a volatile, disrespectful, or loveless relationship.
I believe that good co-parenting relationships between parents, after separation, can counter-balance the negative impacts of divorce. I have seen this time and again in my 20 years working with divorcing families. I have seen this in my own children's lives.
Wise parents use their divorce as an opportunity to step up their parenting skills and focus on their children's long-term emotional well-being and relationship skills. That is great news for your kids.
POSITIVE IMPACTS OF DIVORCE:
(1) The historically "less involved parent" often steps up his or her involvement with the children. Whenever possible, having both parents genuinely involved in a child's life is the ideal situation. Two parents in a child's life creates more opportunity for that child to develop his or her attachment skills. These skills form the basis from which all human beings learn to be social and to develop the ability to have meaningful and loving relationships with other people.
Whether or not both parents are going to win an award for mother/father of the year is not the point. What matters is that both parents are positively involved in their child's life and that the child feels unconditionally loved by both parents.
(2) Children can learn excellent conflict resolution skills from their divorced parents. Even if the parents "failed" at marriage, they can do a great job co-parenting their kids. Good co-parenting always requires high level conflict resolution skills (as does parenting in an intact marriage).
Your kids are watching everything that you do. If you can get along with your ex, and the children can see and feel that they are being parented by a team, they are learning valuable human relationship and problem solving skills. This will serve them well as they navigate all the trials and tribulations that will come their way over time.
(3) Children tend to have more opportunity for one-on-one time with their parents post-divorce. Most children love this special time with their parents -- as long as that parent actually pays attention to them. If you cannot be reasonably present for your children, consider allowing the other parent more custody time. Kids don't count days. They just want to know you are interested in them and that you really care.
(4) Parents have the opportunity for refreshing breaks from the hard work of parenting. When your children are with the other parent, take advantage of that time. This is your break. The silver lining of divorce is that you now have the opportunity to recharge your batteries.
(5) There is a greater tendency for both parents to be involved in the day-to-day academic, social, extracurricular, and emotional lives of their children. It's easier to know what is going on in your child's day-to-day life if that child spends more time in your home. This is great for your kids. Involved parents are usually better parents. Kids love it when they feel their parents are both up to speed with the important matters in their life. It feels more secure and that will help your child feel calm, and be able to focus more on being a kid, and less on wondering what is going on with the grown-ups.
(6) In good co-parenting situations, children have the opportunity to take in the fact that big changes, though worrisome, are not always bad. Children of divorce learn that life is full of surprises. Children of good divorces learn that changes often result in improvements.
If divorced parents do a good job at co-parenting, their kids will have a solid foundation for a successful and happy life. Children of divorce have seen tough times; but, if the divorce is civilized, they have also seen their most important role models -- their parents -- rise above their troubles. These children can relax in the knowledge that they are unconditionally loved and that, together, both parents have their backs.