When I was in fourth grade, which was approximately 1983, my teacher asked my classmates to raise their hands if their parent were divorced. I remember out of a class of 25 or so, that only about 2 kids raised their hands. Even then, I remember having compassion on my peers for how difficult that was for them. According to the American Psychological Association, 35-50% of first marriages end in divorce and the rate for second divorces is 60-70%. When you take into consideration the number of children who are affected by divorce and remarriage, it’s not hard to picture that we have a lot of hurting families in this mix.
Here are a few difficulties children face when their family changes:
- Family structure almost always drastically changes
- Children have to adjust to different parenting styles
- Children have to adjust to different routines
- The tension between their parents sharing time
- Having to adjust to different homes and expectations
When a family becomes blended children face these difficulties:
- Having to trust a new step parent
- Adjusting to the parenting style of one or more stepparents
- Adjusting to new step siblings
- Feelings like they’re betraying their biological parent if they like their stepparent
- Feeling like their stepparent treats their biological children differently than they do them
Here are a few difficulties the parents face with a divorce:
- The financial fall out of their income changing, usually drastically
- Visitation conflicts
- Continued communication difficulties, usually even more difficult than previously
- One partner feeling like they have the burden of dealing with the house (e.g., selling, refinancing, selling household items, etc.)
- Friend groups changing, usually without much notice
- Adjusting to new routines, schedules
While it is difficult to make a comprehensive list when you’re talking about real people, their individual experiences and the children involved, we can agree the impact can be devastating for everyone involved. Divorce affects every part of a family’s life for an extended period of time.
Here are some tips to help manage the major life change of a divorce:
This does not have to be counseling necessarily but everyone in the family should have 1-2 people who can be their safe person. This can be friends, grandparents or a counselor.
Ask for Help
Asking for help is difficult for many people but it is necessary in a crisis. Many times people are surprised at how much people want to help, if you let them know what you need. Those around you are not mind readers and cannot know what you need unless you tell them. Also remind yourself that needing help will not last forever, rather it may be a few months to a year as you adjust to your new situation.
When something like a divorce happens, remind yourself that it will take time to adjust to your new normal. And this timeline is different for everyone. Each person involved will need time to grieve the loss of their reality and adjust to their new normal. This may take several months to several years. Be patient with this process. It will continue to look different as it evolves.
Be a peacemaker
This is probably the most difficult one of all especially when kids are involved. But I do think all of us have an obligation to be peacemakers. Most of us like to be right, and typically we get defensive if we feel like we are getting slighted or wronged. When this is the case, take a deep breath, and give yourself time to settle down before you answer that text or phone call so you can keep yourself in check and do your best to live at peace even during this crisis.
The therapists at Peace Family Counseling have a deep desire to help hurting families from the children to the adults involved, even if it is not a divorce and remarriage situation. We know families can encounter all kinds of difficulties. Our goal is to help people find the right tools to manage their current situations without feeling overwhelmed and shut down. We do this by coming along side you without critique or judgment.