When people go through a divorce, children rank among their biggest concerns. Are they going to be OK? How will the divorce affect them? Are they going to suffer PTSD? Will the effects of the divorce show up when the kids are grown? There are all very normal questions that cause anxiety during and after divorce. The good news is, a warm, supportive parenting style can significantly lessen the impact of divorce on kids. Here’s some more reassuring news – these are practical steps you can follow in parenting after divorce to support your child, regardless of the other parent’s actions.
Here are 16 bite-sized tips for effective parenting after divorce:
1. Be an Active Listener
Offer your undivided attention and ask open-ended questions to encourage more communication from your children.
2. Be Emotionally Supportive
Make it okay for your kids to share their feelings. Validate their emotions by acknowledging and confirming you understand how they feel.
3. Express Love and Affection
Physical affection and loving words can reassure children of your unwavering support and love.
4. Promote Healthy Coping
Teach your kids practical coping skills, like breaking tasks into smaller steps, and model positive, optimistic messages.
5. Be Approachable
Let your children know they can always ask questions or discuss their concerns with you. Hear them out on both small and big matters.
6. Quality Time Matters
Maintain or create family rituals that provide a sense of stability. Let each child also choose individual activities that allow you to focus solely on them.
7. Catch Them Doing Good
Recognize and praise your children’s positive behaviors to boost their self-esteem and reinforce good conduct.
8. Foster Other Relationships
Encourage strong, positive relations with siblings, extended family, and even teachers.
9. Let them Love Both Parents
Help your children understand that it’s okay to love both parents, without feeling like they have to choose sides.
10. Keep Transitions Smooth
Avoid conflict during handovers to the other parent to ensure a stress-free experience for your children.
11. Support Sibling Bonds
Encourage your children to maintain good relationships with their siblings as an additional emotional support network.
12. Update Teachers
Keep the lines of communication open with teachers and childcare providers. Share any major changes in schedules or living conditions.
13. Maintain Routine
Consistency is comforting for children. Keep routines as regular as possible post-divorce.
14. Keep a Weekly Family Hour
Set aside an hour every week for family fun, which could be as simple as a picnic or board game, to strengthen family bonds.
15. Scheduled One-on-One Time
A 15-minute weekly session focusing on each child can go a long way in showing you care. Make it something they can count on as your time together.
16. Legal Access to School Records
Know your rights and responsibilities. Both parents usually have legal access to their children’s school records unless court-ordered otherwise.
Supporting your children with really good parenting after divorce requires a multifaceted approach. Consistency, communication, and affirmation are key. By following these tips as best you can, you’ll not only support your children, but also guide them towards resilient coping and emotional well-being, both short-term and long-term.
Karey L. O’Hara, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. Her research lies at the intersection of prevention science and child mental health. She conducts research on the ways that children and parents adjust after stressful events in the family, such as parental divorce. Her current work focuses on designing interventions so that they are informed by science, easy to use, and effective in promoting children’s mental health and well-being. She has published her research in scientific journals such as the American Psychologist, Journal of Family Psychology, and Child Development. Her work is currently funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Participate in an ASU research project!
Are you separated or divorced? Do you have a child aged 9-12? If yes, you might be eligible to participate in an ASU research project! The project is testing new online games designed to help children cope with the emotional impact of parental separation and divorce! You will be asked to fill out a survey and then meet with a research team member to determine eligibility. If eligible, your child will play 1-4 online games to learn coping skills. You and your child will be asked to do surveys, phone calls, and daily reports for six weeks. You will both receive electronic gift cards, and your child will receive prizes throughout the project. Participation is voluntary. Learn more here.