The five Cs of separation and divorce
Separation is tough on kids. The two people they look up to and rely on more than anyone in the world decide that they can't get along. This generally means that at least one of those parents will find a new place to live, and that the relationships between family members will be drastically changed.
These five Cs of separation can alleviate some of the challenges and minimise some of the risks to your children, should separation and/or divorce become a part of your life.
Research has shown that parents who remain near one another give their children the best opportunities for success. Children who have the option of visiting with mum or dad most days of the week seem to respond to the challenges of separation and divorce best. Some reasons include:
- the simple convenience
- children who see their parents more have (generally) better relationships with them than children who rarely see their parents
- they are more likely to have easier access to friends
- schooling and sports or other extra activities can be much more easily accommodated
Children thrive when their parents are involved in their lives. Most research now suggests that parents be involved in the bathing, helping, shopping, and support of their children. It is not fair for the children, or the parents, if one parent does all of the mundane childrearing, and the other gets all of the weekends and holidays for fun time. Such arrangements usually lead to less than optimal outcomes. It is also important that both parents be there for the big events. Two parents are required for these moments.
Research unequivocally shows that parents need to keep their children away from the conflict associated with their break up. For a child, seeing his parents fight is scary. And there is no doubt that children who feel torn between parents are the worst off. High conflict exacerbates emotional distress and poor psychological adjustment.
However, when we, as parents, take a courteous and civil approach, our children thrive. Treat your ex with respect, even if it's an illusion. Many experts recommend pretending your former spouse is a business client. If you treat him in this way, you are unlikely to yell, badger, or ring at all hours of the day or night.
Children do best when their lives are stable. Stability helps children feel secure. They know what's happening, and feel comfortable that they have a routine. They can predict the future with some accuracy. This sense of certainty gives children the courage to explore, develop, and take risks that are associated with normal and healthy growth. When we provide a stable, secure environment, children respond well.
Change, particularly the kinds of change associated with divorce or separation, is not well received. Our children need to be given clear and honest warnings before changes, and need considerable time to adjust. When sharing warnings and information, ensure that what you tell them is simple and age appropriate.
Be patient and understanding after changes occur. These changes can often be tougher on the kids than they are on you.
Researchers have also discovered that children do best when they experience the same standard of living in both of the homes that they live in. Mum and Dad should both be able to provide them with similar circumstances, food, facilities, and resources. When this does not happen, one parent's home becomes a far more appealing place to be, with more treats, opportunities, and niceties. While this may feel nice for the children, over time these circumstances will develop into feelings of resentment and unhappiness for children and parents.
When we maintain closeness and caregiving, minimise conflict and change, and maintain a reasonable equilibrium in terms of cash and standard of living, we can reduce the impact that separation and divorce have on children.
This article was written by Dr Justin Coulson for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz