How Divorce can Affect a Child’s Mental Health

By Ria Severance, LMFT

As couples reach the place in their marriage where they feel a divorce is the wisest step forward, couples with children, including adult children, are advised to thoughtfully consider how the children will process their parents’ getting a divorce, and how their restructured family landscape will be altered going forward. Work together to keep things as stable and consistent as possible for them. Reassure them that you will both let them know of future certainties, as soon as you both know them– such as where you will each live, how holidays will be shared, how their lives will remain the same, and how you will work together to keep things stable and consistent for them.

For many parents, their children’s wellbeing weighs heavily on their minds before, during and after a marital dissolution. Jointly outlining and telling the children an agreed-upon, non-blaming, nonjudgmental narrative about why the divorce is happening, and how your love and presence in their lives will continue is key to reducing fear, grief and distress. Telling them separately or having blame-driven “reasons” for the divorce will create more conflict and distress for them.

Children of divorce have been reported to have more preventable mental health and physical issues as compared to children from continuously married families.  Even children who were doing well as adults believed they had been ‘permanently scarred’ by their parents’ divorces.  Divorce processes that reduce family conflict and specifically support children are invaluable to minimizing the adverse impact of divorce on children. Decreased exposure to parental conflict is directly correlated with children’s ability to adapt and recover.

A collaborative divorce process proactively contains parental conflict and empowers parents to communicate civilly and respectfully, thus buffering children from conflict now and in the future. Licensed mental health experts serve as Communication Coaches for each parent, and one Child Specialist gives voice to the concerns of both young and adult children.  These experts help the family navigate the emotional rollercoaster that can accompany this major life transition. Parents learn to practice and use the tools they’ll need to effectively co-parent going forward.

A Collaborative Divorce generally allows the divorce process to happen more quickly, efficiently and, in most cases, at a great financial savings compared to a litigated divorce.

If you would like to learn more about how Collaborative Divorce can help you and your family, check out and interview our members listed on the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association website.

 

Note: This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal/financial/tax/mental health or medical advice. Only your attorney, financial, mental health, medical or tax professional can help you determine what will work best for your specific situation.


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