Divorce affects kids. There’s no question about that. In the United States there are a million new children of divorce each year. E. Mavis Hetherington, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, reports in her book, Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, that about 25% of children from divorced families have serious social and emotional problems as opposed to 10% of children from intact families. There are ways to reduce these odds, and dads; the weighty issue is on your shoulders. Here are four steps to follow to ensure your children are minimally affected with emotional and social problems.
Things You’ll Need:
- Joint Custody
- Residency near the ex-spouse
Child support is a must. Non-custodial parent payment improves the standard of living of children-their health, educational attainment, and general sense of well-being. When non-custodial parents (usually the fathers) are financially responsible, the custodial parent (usually the mom) can relinquish demanding full time jobs and be there for her children.
Reduce Life Stresses
Divorce often results in changes in children’s living situations. These changes create a stressful environment for them. You can handle this problem by living within a mile of your ex-wife. When my youngest daughter became quarrelsome I sat down and played Tiddlywinks, a game my grandmother taught me when I was a child. She, my older daughter, and I played together. After a while, I left the room for a few minutes to watch my daughters play together. I read stories to them, took them on weekend outings, and spent most of my free time with them. The results? Life stresses were reduced and my adult daughters consider each other best friends. (They also love me to pieces.)
Step 3Be an anchor for your kids
Research shows that when fathers in two parent families are actively involved with their children, children tend to be more competent and better adjusted. Though keeping up with child support is important, it is equally important for non-custodial parents to maintain close relationships with their children.
I’m a strong advocate of joint custody. In 1991 I asked for and received joint custody of my daughters. I knew that I’d miss them dearly. Imagine how they would have felt with their developing emotions? Unfortunately, too many people discount their children’s feelings. Only about 22% of divorce cases grant joint custody. In sixty-nine percent of divorces the mother has sole custody of the children. The non-custodial parent, usually the father, sees his child four days a month.
When one parent is solely involved in raising the children there are serious problems. Children are at greater risk for juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, poor academic performance, drug and alcohol abuse, and school drop out.
Both parents must communicate with an understanding that their “friendship” must be nurtured for the betterment of their children. They need to strive for professionalism in their relationship with each other. They must help their children with homework and provide guiding discipline. According to Professor Paul R. Amato of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, academic success improves, behavior problems decreases, and mental health problems are lower compared to children whose fathers don’t take an active parenting role. Study after study show that when children feel close to both parents, they have fewer problems.
Step 4Best friends
Parents’ battles affect children’s happiness. Kids in high conflict families, whether intact or divorced, fare worse than children in low conflict families. Post divorce conflict has a strong influence on children’s adjustment.
Dr. Stephen Levine, a Milwaukee child psychologist, says, “Parents need to ask themselves this question: ‘What can I do to make it easier for my child?'” Dr Levine says, “It’s imperative that you be a positive role model for your children.” When angry with your ex-spouse, keep your mouth closed. Calm down, plan your objectives, and when ready, state them in a businesslike fashion.
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Kids can and do survive divorce successfully, but when they have a dependable parent in their lives, their chances improve. When both parents are involved, the chances increase tremendously against that child becoming one of Hetherington’s 25%.
Current evidence suggests that parental loss, economic hardship, stress, lack of parental competence, and inter-parental conflict contribute to a child’s difficulties due to divorce. Parents must realize that after a divorce the most important thing is the welfare of the child, not the welfare of the parent.