Parenting After a Divorce

Parenting After A Divorce

When a marriage ends, and the couple has no children, there are only two people that need to heal, regroup, and move forward with their lives. However, if you introduce children into the equation, the situation becomes far more complex.  I have worked with a number of children from divorced families, and many factors can impact the effect that divorce has on a child. These factors include the age of the child, the child’s temperament, the amount of expressed conflict between the parents, and the amount of disruption to the child’s life. Most children are resilient and do eventually adjust to their parent’s divorce.  However, in the short-term children can and do struggle with distorted thinking/beliefs, intense feelings, and changes in behavior as described in the following sections.


Distorted Thinking

Examples of a child’s distorted thinking may include:

  1. Mom and Dad are divorcing because of something I did.
  2. Mom (Dad) moved out because she (he) doesn’t love me anymore.
  3. Mom and Dad will eventually get back together, and we will all live together again.


Intense Feelings

Examples of a child’s feelings upon learning his (her) parents are divorcing include:

  1. Anger. A child may feel anger towards one or both parents.
  2. Fear. Most children thrive with predictability, and divorce introduces uncertainty in a child’s life and questions such as “where will I live”,” “will I have to leave my friends behind”, or “will I have to go to a new school”.
  3. Sadness. A child may feel sad that he (she) will have reduced time with one parent, and may see extended family less often.


Changes in Behavior

Examples of changes in behavior that a child may exhibit include:

  1. Temper tantrums that represent a new behavior, or which increase post-divorce.
  2. Problems sleeping and/or nightmares.
  3. Development of risky behaviors, especially in older children, that might include experimenting with drugs, vaping, or using alcohol.
  4. Loss of interest in friends and/or activities previously enjoyed.
  5. Trouble focusing on schoolwork.


Suggestions for Parents


  1. Exhibit your best behavior towards your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, especially in the presence of your children. Do not let your emotions overtake you.
  2. Provide reassurance to your children that they will be taken care of, and their needs and preferences considered.
  3. Consider seeking counseling services for your children, which may take the form of individual and/or family counseling. In addition, seek counseling for yourself if you need help processing your emotions.


Lisa Johnson, LPC



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