Relationships Quick Answers
What can parents do to reduce the possible negative effects of divorce?
Much of what we've learned about the effects of divorce indicates that parents can contribute greatly to the child's adjustment. Hearing about disruptive behavior may be disheartening, but parents need to remember that the children are going through a difficult time in their lives.
Social scientists have repeatedly found that several factors contribute to the intellectual, social, and emotional development of children. In general, parents who practice a kind but firm style of discipline foster healthy development. Effective discipline requires providing the nurturing and love that children need, while setting firm limits on aggressiveness and other inappropriate behavior. Minimizing the conflict and hostility between parents following the divorce can contribute to positive outcomes. Agreement between the parents on discipline and child rearing, and love and approval from both parents, contribute to the child's sense of well-being and self-worth.
Limiting the disruptions the child must cope with - such as changing residence, schools, and child care - can reduce the number of stressful events within a child's life. Children seem to adjust best when the ex-spouses can support each other in their roles as parents and when the youngsters have regular and frequent contact with both parents. Letting the children know that you are willing to discuss divorce-related concerns can increase their understanding and comfort level with their situation.
Robert Hughes, Jr., Ph.D., Former Professor, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Wednesday, August 20, 2008