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Helping children cope with the realities of divorce

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Making the choice to end a marriage when there are children involved is almost always an emotionally difficult decision. Whatever the reason for your divorce, you probably worry about how it may affect them. If your relationship was an especially hostile one, where any decrease in contention and stress will likely be beneficial for all parties involved, you probably have many concerns. Conversely, perhaps you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse want to work on maintaining a degree of civility and cooperation for the sake of the children.

Regardless of where your divorce falls on the spectrum, your number one concern throughout the process is almost certainly your children. However, studies have shown it is not the end of the marriage itself that negatively affects children, but rather the way parents handle and present the break-up. The good news is that there are things parents can do to help their children get through the divorce and look forward to a more stable future for everyone involved.

Tips for helping children deal with divorce

While no one would ever try to say that divorce will not be an emotionally upsetting time for both children and parents, things like counselling and age-appropriate explanation can go a long way toward decreasing stress and long-term negative effects. Other tips for helping children cope include:

  • Minimizing emotional stress: Show your children how much you and others love them no matter what else is happening.
  • Being honest: It's important to be clear and forthright about the situation without being critical of the other parent.
  • Making sure your children know they are not responsible: Occasionally, children assume divorce is in some way their fault. You will want to clarify this misconception and give clear explanations as to the actual reasons you and your spouse decided to separate.
  • Keeping conflict as far away from them as possible: When you can, it is best if you and your spouse avoid open hostility and heated discussions when the children are present.
  • Minimizing change: A lot of disruptions to daily routines and living arrangements all at once can lead to tension, aggression and confusion. Try to give your children time to adjust gradually to any necessary changes.
  • Empathizing: Letting your child know that you understand what they are feeling, or that their feelings are valid, can be extremely beneficial.

Children are still growing and developing, and they learn from watching their parents. High levels of parental conflict can make it difficult to maintain good relationships. Researchers have found that children exposed to negative family situations for prolonged periods often suffer from toxic stress. Again, it seems to be the parents' handling of the situation, and not the situation itself, that negatively or positively impacts children during wthe divorce process.

Where to turn for guidance and support

Finding an Illinois divorce attorney who has experience with children and family law can be tremendously beneficial. Lawyers have different areas of specialization and expertise, so divorcing parents may find it helpful to seek the counsel of a professional who understands the various ways divorce may affect children, and who is patient and willing to put the children's best interests first. With the guidance of such an attorney, all parties involved can work toward a brighter, healthier future.

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