How Children Become the Victims of a Divorce

Michelle Jensen

MA Counseling Psychology - Parent Resource Center, Oregon
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There are over 6,600 divorces a day in the United States alone. No question about it, divorce is a traumatic and destabilizing event, for both parents and their kids. 

When parents are in the immediate throes of divorce, emotions may run wild for both parents. Anger, frustration, and depression are part of divorce. 

Suddenly, separate thinking may be going on for parents who used to feel united. 

As difficult as it is, both parents need to be able to put aside their differences while with their children. This is when the parents may separately need to consult a professional to emotionally process the divorce events and ways of handling various situations. 

How do you go about putting your children first when you are also suffering? 

Some Tips Stay off Social Media regarding your divorce 

The Court can use this information against you. Do not lie, make threats, or manipulate your ex. Control your own feelings in public. 

Compartmentalize You have to separate out what’s happening to you and not show anxiety, depression, or temper tantrums in front of your kids. 

Whenever you are around them, you must focus on their needs. It is not their fault that the relationship has changed for either of you. 

If need be, place your child with a trusted relative or friend for the time it takes to complete some task regarding the divorce for that day. 

Realize you are the parent and you have to be the grown-up At no time do you ever “put down” the other parent in front of your child. 

It is not their job to listen to a parent’s pain & suffering. Do not make them your surrogate counselor. 

Get help from a professional so you can process this difficult event. This will help you from crossing the boundaries of where you need to stay to help your child. Your child should feel secure in how you and your ex are handling the situation because it is not your kid’s problem. 

Process your feelings, then theirs Once you are able to process your own emotions, you may be able to help your child process theirs. How do you feel? How do they feel? Being honest about feelings helps this process, but also correct any feelings the child has about blaming themselves or only a parent. Again, stress to your child, this is not their problem to fix, and there is nothing you expect them to do about it. 

Always ask yourself, what is the effect of my current actions on my child? 

Many times toddlers are expected to go back and forth to different houses several days a week. This type of action is very destabilizing unless both parents are involved in an amicable divorce and are putting the child first and seeing what the reaction is to the child changing houses often. 

Put yourself in your child’s shoes 

How would you like it if someone demanded that you go back and forth 3 days a week to different houses? It probably would feel disruptive, overwhelming, and scattered. Your clothes would have to be in two places, your “toys” or things you use daily would have to be in two places. It might be hard to get to sleep and keep your routine. 

Don’t expect a child not to be affected by all this Have enough maturity and kindness to have the child live 90% of the time in one place until an appropriate age is reached where the child will not mind the inconsistencies as much. 

Come up with a parenting plan for visits that seems reasonable and doesn’t stress the child’s schedule. Then discuss it with a professional. Divorce is never an easy thing, but, you can still raise a well-adjusted, happy child if you watch for signs from them about how their needs can be met. 

Give it your best effort. It will be worth it. You are their hero and you are the closest example for them. Be vigilant about your own behaviors.

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