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Protecting Your Child from the Negative Effects of Divorce


Children do best when they have the support of two loving parents, but divorce can upend this balance, and leave a child feeling unstable and unsure of his/her place. Divorce is hard on all members of a family, but children are particularly affected due to the difficulty they have understanding the often sudden and radical shift in the home structure. Parents generally want what is best for their children, but divorce forces parents to surrender some measure of power to the other parent, which can cause tensions that spill over into the child’s world. Protecting children from the negativity that can come from divorce allows the child to more easily accept change in the family, and minimize the long-term trauma this event can trigger in a child’s psyche. However, the need to shield a child from conflict between parents does not mean ignoring the situation, or keeping the child completely out of the loop about what is happening. A discussion of how to effectively support a child through divorce, and specific behavior to avoid, will follow below.

Techniques to Help Adjustment

Knowing how to approach the subject of divorce with children is difficult, and will, to some extent, vary by child. However, the child will need to be told the truth about the breakup of the marriage. Details should be avoided, but children will pick up on changes in the parents’ routine and interaction, so a basic level of honesty is necessary to ward off wild speculation by the child. Further, encourage and facilitate additional conversations about the divorce to answer any lingering questions and to prevent the child from withdrawing emotionally from the situation. Importantly, reassure the child that they remain the priority of both parents, and that divorce will not change this commitment. Also, recognize and appreciate the child will mourn the loss of the family unit just as the parent will, and require the parent to be patient and remain ready to provide emotional support if necessary. Finally, if it appears that a child is truly struggling to cope with the divorce, be open to seeking professional assistance from a mental health professional experienced in family law matters, which should reduce or eliminate the long-term effects of this event.

Behavior to Avoid

Divorce tends to generate hard feelings for everyone involved, but exposing the child to conflict is one of the most damaging situations a child can experience. Children naturally want to pick sides, and seeing their parents fight forces the child into emotional crisis as they try to reconcile what they are witnessing with the emotional attachment the child has for each parent. Secondly, bad-mouthing the other parent in the presence of or directly to the child has a similar effect, and can cause the child to question if the parents will be there to support the child. Similarly, using the child to pass information to the other parent only adds more instability to a rapidly changing situation, and can foment lingering resentment in the child for being manipulated into an inappropriate role.

Trying to settle child custody issues in the wake of divorce is a critical and sensitive issue that can greatly benefit from the involvement of an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney can help a parent understand the possible and likely outcomes, and some options he/she may have to settle this issue outside the litigious environment of the courtroom if possible.

Contact an Orlando Divorce Lawyer

Divorce is hard, and fully understanding everything that is at stake in this situation is often difficult to appreciate. The Orlando law firm Donna Hung Law Group represents clients in divorce and a variety of other family law matters, and understands the tailored and dedicated approach these cases need to reach the best possible outcome. Contact us today at (407) 999-0099 to schedule a confidential consultation.