Helping Children Cope With Divorce

Many children in the Arab world are facing family disruption and in many of these countries divorce rates are rising. Children experience divorce deeply and personally, however, divorce outcomes are not the same for all children, nor are they inevitable. The three biggest factors that impact children’s well-being during and after their parents’ divorce are potentially within their parents’ control. These are:

  1. The degree and duration of hostile conflict
  2. The quality of parenting provided over time
  3. The quality of the parent –child relationship

Underlying these factors, of course, are parents ’wellbeing and ability to function effectively. The impact of divorce on children is well documented. It is primarily that the parents are the backbone of the process of the divorce that can mitigate or reverse potentially serious negative outcomes for their children. Many children react to their parents’ divorce with painful emotions including sadness, confusion, and fear of abandonment, guilt, misconceptions, anger, loyalty conflicts, worry and grief. Many children experience feelings of loss when one parent moves out of the family home. In situations of intense conflict and domestic abuse, children may have a sense of relief. Their reactions may vary depending on their ages, but nearly all children share a common worry: “WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME?”

In addition to revealing these difficult emotions, research also has shown that negative short-term consequences for children after divorce include decrease academic  achievement, poor psychological adjustment, social and emotional adjustment, and negative self-concept. Their physical health is compromised too, especially in situations of high conflict and many teens develop weaker emotional ties to their parents –particularly their fathers.

From my prolonged professional experience in the field of divorce recovery, I believe much can be done and many of my clients ask for guidance and what can I advise them. I emphasize that while individual and extra-familial factors are very important, these are the family factors that I am identifying below.

Family Risk Factors

  • Ongoing conflict between parents, especially when it is abusive and/or focused on children
  • Diminished capacity to parent or poor parenting
  • Lack of monitoring children’s activities
  • Multiple family transitions (divorce, remarriage, another divorce)
  • Parent mental health problems
  • Chaotic unstable household
  • Economic decline
  • Impaired parent – child relationships

Family Protective Factors

  • Protection from conflict between parents
  • Cooperative parenting except in situations of domestic abuse
  • Healthy relationships between child and parents
  • Parents’ psychological well being
  • Parental health and wellness
  • Quality, authoritative parenting and household structure and stability
  • Supportive sibling relationships and supportive relationships with extended family
  • Economic stability

I am a great believer that high quality parenting is a powerful protective factor and a modifiable source of childhood resilience. I define high quality as a combination of warmth and nurturance with effective discipline and limit setting.  Discipline characterized by clear guidelines, limits and age appropriate expectations. This kind of parenting is shown consistently to relate to better outcomes for children.

Source: 360Moms

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