Divorce is never simple or easy for anyone. It’s almost always an unfortunate outcome to a hopeful expectation.
But it does happen, and when it does, we need to consider everyone affected by the choice to get divorced, especially those who are more emotionally vulnerable than the divorcees.
For children of divorced parents, the emotional and psychological toll can be enough to cause them to feel depressed, doubtful, distrusting, and lacking self-worth.
In these scenarios, it’s up to the divorced parents to identify threats to their children’s mental health and be as cautious as they can to prevent those threats from manifesting in their loved ones.
Help Your Child Cope with Depression
Let’s explore some perspectives on depression in children of divorce and what we can do as co-parents to help them conquer it.
Aligning Your Attitude With Your Co-parent
Assuming that you’ve gone to every length to preserve the marriage before landing with divorce as the only viable option, you and your co-parent need to establish a game plan for addressing it with your kids.
As hard as it may be to cooperate with your former spouse, you will have to work together and develop a logical, simple, and understandable narrative to present to your children.
You need to explain to them what is happening and why it’s happening. You will have to agree upon a way to present the scenario to them. No matter who is more or less at fault in the divorce, try to empathize with your co-parent’s perspective, and emphasize your collective struggle and why it makes sense to both of you to pursue divorce.
If you come across as disjointed, not on the same page, and angry or agitated with each other, it will only throw fuel on the fire for your child’s upset. Kids can pick up on undertones presented in their parents’ speech. Be conscientious that your inflection is hopeful and positive, not jaded and bitter.
What You Can Do
Do not cut your children out of the dialogue. Whether you’re in thinking about divorce, about to be divorced, or are already divorced, you need to factor in the effect on your children’s well-being with every step.
Do not marginalize your children by individually explaining your own hardships right out of the gate. Try to sit down with them as a pair (you and your co-parent) and explain to them calmly what is happening.
Ask your children their feelings on the matter. If they act confused or angry with you, do not reciprocate that anger or frustration. Remain calm and keep loving them with your speech, your tone, and your actions.
If your child experiences apathy, depression, and prolonged sadness, you’ll want to start weighing the option of therapy.
There are many different therapeutical approaches that can help children process and heal from divorce.
One of the simplest modes of therapy is talk therapy, giving the child a chance to express their feelings about the situation, what they do and don’t understand, as well as how they wish to resolve it.
A hard realization is that the child likely won’t be able to undo what has been done. One of the most important applications of therapy is to help the child find contentment in situations outside of their control.
A lot of parents’ instinct when presenting their divorce to their child is to feel guilty and have the desire to mend hurt feelings. This can often come out in the form of loosened standards, household rules, and the like.
A recently divorced parent might feel the impulse to have to “win back” their child’s affection and, in turn, begin to compromise parenting values.
It’s important to maintain as much normality in the household as you can. Establish boundaries with your children so that they do not descend into bad habits of activity or behavior because of the divorce.
Additionally, even parents can begin to neglect their children’s physical well-being during a divorce. You must be aware of what standards might be slipping, especially their nutrition and diet. The last thing you want is to start having to deal with physical health problems and declining grades due to neglecting their base needs.
Likewise, supporting their health with brain foods can help keep their mental fortitude at its peak to face the rollercoaster of emotions brought with their parent’s divorce.
Continue to Love Them Through Hardship
It’s no surprise that children of broken homes can fall into unhealthy lifestyle patterns down the road. That’s why being accessible to them and prioritizing their mental and physical health is paramount.
Your children are now the number one concern in your life. In a divorce, they will be the most important factor that keeps you and your co-parent involved with each other. Never place them second. If you can maintain transparency and listen to your kids, you’ll have a firm foundation for recovery.