A recent study published by the American Psychological Association reveals adult children of divorce are 14 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those who grew up in intact homes. While researchers encourage health care practitioners to target this group for prevention and treatment, divorcing parents should be proactive, set aside their differences and place the utmost priority on their kids’ well-being.
Family Law Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry explains two of the vital tips she shares with parents.
“Divorce is a life moment that’s likely going to be devastating to a child. It can feel like a death to them,” says Connatser Family Law Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry. If you’re a parent who is preparing to divorce, consider the following tips to help minimize the pain of divorce for your children.
1. Always Take the High Road. “We find that the worst thing divorcing parents can do is to talk negatively about the other parent in front of the kids. We tell them to instead take the high road and put the drama aside,” Christine says. While this can be one of the most challenging pieces of advice to take, it may benefit children profoundly in the long-term.
Christine also tells parents, “You do not want to mishandle this for your children or your divorce proceeding because how you handle this will have a lasting impact. Your children will never forget how you handled yourself during this time. While the children’s needs should be the top priority, how a parent behaves pertaining to child custody and visitation can also be a factor in how a judge rules in their divorce. For example, disparaging the other parent in front of the children is not considered healthy parenting.”
2. Ask your custody and/or divorce attorney to recommend a counselor. Experienced family law attorneys work with counselors on a regular basis and they will know several reputable counselors they can recommend for both kids and parents. Which leads us to …
3. Seek advice on how to tell the kids about the divorce. “One of the first things we suggest to parents is to see a counselor first – preferably with their spouse – so they can get a professional recommendation on how to tell the kids they are getting divorced,” says Christine.
An experienced family counselor can tell you how best to prepare kids for the uncertainty of divorce, help them feel secure and ensure that they do not feel that they are in any way responsible.
4. Schedule time for kids to meet with a counselor. After you tell your children about the divorce, it can be very helpful for them to meet with a counselor for an assessment to find out how they are coping. “Parents should leave the counseling to the professionals. They are not in a good state of mind to counsel their own children, nor are they neutral parties,” Christine says.
Christine explains why it’s important to schedule time for children to meet with a counselor.
Once the counselor evaluates the child, they can recommend if and when additional counseling sessions would be helpful. Counselors can provide kids with an outlet, give them guidance and teach them coping skills.
5. Remember that your kids won’t be this age forever. Parents often get stuck in the present and forget that the child will need to interact with both parents for years to come. Your relationship with your child and your child’s relationship with the other parent should evolve in a healthy manner over the long-term.
Says Christine, “It’s important to remind parents that they will want their child to have a good relationship with the other parent. That can make for a happier, healthier child, who may be less likely to repeat the same mistakes of their parents.”
6. Communicate frequently with people at your child’s school. Parents should keep an eye out for warning signs that their child is having a tough time dealing with divorce. “How kids handle things at school can be a big tip-off,” Christine says.
“Make a point to talk with your child’s school, teacher, counselor, coaches, etc.,” she adds.
Some of the warning signs that parents and school officials should watch for in kids of divorce may include:
- Their grades begin to suffer.
- They miss extracurricular activities and practices (sports, dance team, choir, band, etc.).
- They act out, get into trouble, are late to class or pick fights with other kids.
- They pay a visit to the school nurse and/or pretend to be sick to get out of class.
- They approach their school counselor on their own.
By keeping the lines of communication with the school open and alerting them to the fact that a divorce is on the horizon, school officials should be better prepared to spot any changes in behavior or warning signs early on.
7. Tell children it’s OK to talk about how they feel. “Kids need to know that it’s healthy for them to talk about their feelings. They should also be told to ask any questions they want to about the divorce and how it will affect them,” Christine says. Let a reputable family counselor be your guide.
Seek Professional Guidance in Child Custody Cases in Texas
Parents who are considering divorce should take steps to put the kids and their long-term mental health first. Seek guidance from a mental health professional early on and watch for signs that your child may be in trouble. A proactive, positive approach may help prepare your child to deal with the divorce today and in the future.
Are you contemplating a north Texas divorce and would like to speak with a reputable family counselor? Please contact us for a recommendation.