Protecting Your Children During Divorce: What Does This Look Like?

Father smiles at his children as they sleep beside him.

Before, during, and after parents decide to separate or divorce, the most prominent recurring concerns are in regards to the children. How will they handle it once we tell them? How are they coping with this transition as one parent moves out? Will they face repercussions later in life due to this decision? How can I protect my child from getting hurt?

Through all of these questions and concerns, many parents continue to move forward with their decision to separate and transition their family into a new routine. Moving forward will be the best long-term solution, even if it's hard for everyone to see that right now. As a parent, it is crucial that you find healthy ways to protect your child from any adverse outcomes they could potentially face during and after your divorce or separation.

Identifying Symptoms That Could Lead to Problems

Protecting your child during a divorce or separation is not difficult in theory, but it will require that you put a little extra attention onto details that you might have otherwise overlooked. Observing your child for signs and symptoms of stress, as well as monitoring factors surrounding your divorce that could create stress for your children, will be important during this process.

The emotional impact of a divorce on a child can be immense. Research suggests that children of divorced parents are two times more likely to drop out of high school and are two times more likely to develop health problems. Studies also suggest that teens in single-parent families or blended families are 300% more likely to psychological help compared to teens in intact families.

Several factors could lead to negative impacts such as these, many having to do directly with parents themselves and their behaviors. Some of these factors may include but aren't limited to:

  • Continual fighting between parents, even after the divorce is finalized
  • Parents who battle their own emotional challenges and put their well-being at risk, causing them to fall back on certain parental responsibilities
  • A parent who pulls back on their relationship with their child, not showing the same degree of attention or support as before
  • Changes in family economics, where one or both parents can provide less for their child as, at least in part, as a result of the divorce
  • The child has trouble acclimating to any new partners that either parent may bring into the picture

While these factors could lead to significant issues that could make any parent feel concerned, they are not the only outcomes faced that children of divorced or separated parents. Parents can work to protect their children from facing these issues today as well as later in life. Whether you work together or separately, focusing on the same goal to keep your child healthy and safe is a great starting point here.

Ways to Protect Your Child

It is possible for parents to have different ideas on what it means to protect their child during their divorce. Though every family's situation is unique, the ways that parents can keep their kids healthy and protected during this process often look similar across the board. Get a clearer picture of what it means to protect your child during divorce by considering these tips.

  • Encourage time spent with each parent. When one parent leaves the picture entirely, it can lead a child to feel extremely troubled. As long as no issues are surrounding your child's safety, children deserve to spend quality time with each of their parents and continue cultivating a close relationship with them individually.
  • Never use your child as a messenger. The responsibility of having to send messages between homes for their parents puts a lot of pressure on a child. They can experience anxiety and stress by having to bear the burden of the messages as well as the responses to them. Find an effective way to manage your shared parenting communication between one another, without putting your child in the middle of it.
  • Manage your shared expenses and child support payments responsibly. This may not seem evident at first, but children do suffer consequences when one or both parents are not providing them with adequate financial support. Even though your family situation has changed, it's essential to work as a team to protect your child's financial standing and maintain a lifestyle for them that is similar to how it was before your divorce. Be smart about how you handle shared finances, including child support payments.
  • Keep up with a routine. Many kids can quickly adapt to change, but it's not always so easy when the changes carry substantial emotional weight. Preserve as much of your old routine as you possibly can, and stick to new parts of your routine as soon as you fall into them. A sense of normalcy is likely to help your child maintain a healthier emotional state throughout this process.
  • Bring new significant others into the picture slowly. Entering a relationship right after ending another can seem exciting but can also be so emotionally draining, both on your and your children. As new individuals enter your life, be slow to let them into your child's life. Don't rush a meeting or expect your child to fall in love with this new person right away. To make the first introduction easier, consider smart ways to stage this meeting between your new partner and your child.
  • Talk to your child. Regularly checking in with your child about the changes going on in your family might not always be easy to face, and there might be times where they don't want to say much. As difficult as it might sometimes be, letting your child express their feelings to you can be a positive step for them towards moving forward. Listen attentively and respond lovingly, even if what they say feels hurtful.
  • Work to end conflict in your co-parenting. At the onset of your divorce, the thought of having to interact with the other parent of your children can seem daunting and tiresome. This isn't abnormal, and things can evolve. At the onset, find a way to communicate effectively, sharing the most important details related to your child's schedule, health, schooling, etc. When parents are on the same page about the essential information about their children's lives, they are better equipped to each offer the best support possible to their kids.
  • Look after yourself. As many times as you may have heard it, it's true that you can't always provide the best degree of love and support to someone else if you can't find a way to love and support yourself. Take care of yourself to uphold your emotional and mental well-being. Spend time with loved ones and friends, and spend time doing things you like to do. If you feel you need extra support, don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist or other mental health practitioner. They can offer professional guidance to help you move forward and care for yourself.

Protecting your children through a divorce may look a bit different for every family, but at its heart, it means that both parents are always looking out for their child's emotional and mental health. With your co-parent, work as a team to help your whole family move forward positively into this new life chapter.