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Reading your children's emotional signs as they cope with divorce

As the parent of several children, you may relate to other New Jersey parents who say they weren't quite prepared for the challenges that laid ahead in helping their kids adapt to new lifestyles after divorce. Depending on the ages of your children, you may notice a wide range of emotion from anger or frustration to sadness, depression or regressive behaviors. The key is knowing how to recognize signs of trouble and where to seek support when a particular type of problem arises.

There are several types of issues that seem common among children of divorced parents. As long as you keep clear lines of communication open at all times with your kids and let them know from the start that your divorce is not their fault, you may be able maintain a loving, healthy relationship with them as you all move forward toward a new, successful future.

Key issues that may impact your children

There are various types of behavior and emotions that children often experience as they navigate their parents' divorces. You may witness one or more of the following in your own children:

  • Trying to fill in the gaps left by the other parent: Even if you and your former spouse share custody, your children will only live with one parent at a time. You may notice (especially in older children) a child's attempt to fill the shoes of the absent parent, perhaps disciplining younger siblings or trying to make sure you are not feeling lonely. 
  • Children often mimic parental behavior: Your kids are always watching you and listening to what you say, even if you think they're not. Problems can arise when children secretly try to explore destructive habits they may have witnessed in a parent, leading up to divorce. Such behavior might include substance abuse, infidelity or other negative actions. Some of these behaviors may not surface until children hit their pre-teen or teenage years.
  • You are divorced but your kids are not: To help children cope with divorce, it is crucial to remember that children themselves do not get divorced -- adults do. Your children will continue to love you and their other parent even when you are no longer married to one another. Respecting this fact may help prevent a lot of stress down the line. 

You'll likely have good days and bad days with your kids, following your divorce. In fact, much of your relationship will be as it might have been had you never gotten divorced. Parenting is challenging and sometimes outside support may be needed to overcome the obstacles that arise. As a divorced parent, this might be especially true when you and your former spouse disagree about a child-related issue or run into legal problems regarding an existing court order.

Many New Jersey parents ask family law attorneys to advocate on their behalves when trying to resolve parenting plan problems in court.

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