The ending of a marital relationship does create stress in families. Stress contributors include the parents’ own stress, reduced parenting capacity, impending family relocation, and economic instability.
The good news is that most of these have only a temporary impact on the children.
The negative effect of divorce on children – stress, insecurity and agitation – is largely due to chronic conflict between the parents. This is exacerbated when the conflict is open and attacking, and the children are caught in the middle.
A positive relationship between parents and children can decrease the stress. Specifically, custodial parents who express emotional stability, warmth and consistency can improve their children’s adjustment to divorce. The transition is even smoother when positive traits are exhibited by both parents.
On the whole, positive adjustment is further facilitated by the active and amicable involvement of both parents in the children’s care and lifestyle-related decision-making. The positive effects are diluted by parental arguments over childcare, especially in front of the children.
Children’s stress can be reactivated when the remarriage of a parent triggers or reawakens the parental conflict that caused the divorce.
Divorce is a better choice than staying together “for the sake of the children” in families where parents are chronically battling.
Children actually do better emotionally when their conflict-ridden parents divorce, compared to children whose parents remain in that kind of marriage.
In families with high parental conflict, the conflict typically begins before the divorce and does not decrease until one or two years following the divorce. In some cases the animosity between parents can last, and impact the children, for many more years.
Parents can reduce the negative impact by controlling their divorce method and how they handle conflict during and after the divorce. One solution is to agree to a Collaborative Divorce, a process that teaches parents how to communicate effectively and work out their differences in non-adversarial ways.