Divorce, Parenting, and Child Development

A divorce is difficult for the entire family. When a mother and father get divorced, it pulls apart and rearranges the lives of the parents and children. It can be easy for fathers to get caught up in the drama of the divorce and not recognize the needs of their hurting children. There is so much anger and hurt between the father and mother that the child’s needs can be pushed aside or ignored. The following guide will help fathers take their child’s feelings and development into consideration when parenting after a divorce.

Blame

Children have a tendency to internalize everything. Even bright, happy, and intelligent children blame themselves for their parents divorce. As angry as a father may be with the mother, it is important that he remind the children frequently that they are loved by both parents and that the divorce was not their fault.

Custody

Custody battles can cause a number of nasty situations for children of divorced parents. Even if the parents are not actively fighting a legal custody battle, they may be fighting an emotional battle. Children should not be involved in any disputes regarding custody. It is important that the divorced parents talk privately about custody issues. Children should be unaware that the issue even exists. Additionally, children should never be asked to choose between their parents. Being forced to choose a parent to live with or spend time with can be extremely scarring to a child.

Consistency

Just because parents are not living in the same house does not mean that parenting should become inconsistent. It can be tempting to be the “fun dad” and let the kids run wild, but what the children really need is consistency. Divorce reorders the entire life of the child. If rules go out the window and anything flies at their dad’s house, the anxiety of the child will increase rather than decrease. Additionally, it is important to uphold any rules that were set in place before the divorce. Parenting is not an area to seek revenge against the child’s mother.

Freedom

Some newly divorced men feel that they have an exciting feeling of freedom. In some ways, this freedom may be good, but it’s vital that it does not get in the way of parenting. Children should not be aware of their father’s newly revitalized sex life or be exposed to a number of female dates. The father’s partners should only meet the children after a long term relationship is established. Seeing their father cycle through woman after woman can make children feel stressed and insecure.

This new found freedom can extend to other areas as well. Children should not be exposed to increased drug use, excess spending, or any new habit that may alter the way they understand their father. Even after a divorce, the father is still an authority figure in the life of the child and needs to act as a responsible adult. This does not mean that fathers cannot express their freedom, it just means that they need to do so away from their children.

Anger

Childhood is a time for fun and games. Unfortunately, children of divorced parents are often witnesses to anger, hostility, and fighting. Disputes between the divorced father and mother should be held in private. It’s important that as the adults, the parents set a standard of calmly expressing feelings. If feelings cannot be expressed calmly than arguments should move to a location that is not within earshot of the children.

Anger can be expressed outside of arguments as well. It’s important that fathers refrain from making negative, inflammatory, or backhanded comments about the mother. Children need to be able to look up to both of their parents in order to properly develop into adults. Shattering a child’s opinion of one of their parents can be a setup for disaster. If children want to talk about their mother, listen and respond appropriately. If fathers have nothing nice to say about the mother, than they should say nothing at all.

Counseling

Despite the best efforts of the parents, children may need to seek counseling after the divorce. If the child is exhibiting anxious, angry, or agitated behaviors, it may be a good idea to contact a child counselor. Divorce is a scary and confusing time for children. Even the best father cannot completely erase the trauma and hurt associated with divorce. If children need to seek counseling it is important to not view it as a failure. The counseling will provide the child with the tools needed to cope with the divorce.