Raising a child after a divorce can be challenging for both parent and child. But with clear communication and ground rules, your child can continue to grow and develop healthfully.
Elementary-aged children of divorced parents may be more likely to experience behavioral issues, such as anxiety or low self-esteem, as well as have trouble in school. Adjusting to a parent’s new significant other, a stepparent or stepsibling may also make your child feel sad or wish things could return to how they used to be.
Stopping Trouble Before It Starts
- Be observant. Has your child been acting out more often? Has there been an unexpected change in his or her school performance? Small changes could signal big problems. Look for signs of emotional stress, such as your happy-go-lucky daughter being sad or your son picking fights at school.
- Lay a firm foundation for all parenting figures. Whether you’re the stepparent or biological parent, make sure all adults involved in your child’s life are on the same page to prevent mixed messages about what is and isn’t OK. Whether you’re in a supporting role or the parent the child spends the majority of his or her time with, you can have a huge impact on the children in your life. As the split family begins to come together, decide what role you would like to take on, and be sure to explain it to the children and caregivers involved in the relationship.
- Plan activities that allow all parenting figures to be present. Don’t wait for special events such as birthdays or holidays for everyone to get together. Successful co-parenting allows the child to grow up in an environment where he or she feels supported by all family members. Work to plan special events or activities such as a pool party or cookout that will allow everyone to be together.
- Take time out to talk. Checking in with your child can help you pinpoint areas of stress or sadness and allow you to facilitate an open dialogue about problems he or she may be facing while adjusting to a new family unit. Reassure him or her that it’s normal to have a little trouble and that everyone involved is here for support and love.
To find out about counseling services available at St.Vincent Health ministries, visitstvincent.org/mentalhealth.
Reviewed by Daniel Waddle, Ed.S., L.M.H.C., manager, behavioral health, St.Vincent Stress Center.