Family therapy, family court, parenting classes, depression, anxiety, child psychotherapy, custody and visitation issues, school and peer problems, lack of parental supervision.

Children and Divorce

Family therapy, family court, parenting classes, child psychotherapy, school or peer problems, lack of parental supervision, custody and visitation issues.

Many families in the United States are touched by divorce. The current divorce rate is calculated to be between 40 and 60% for those recently married and up to 10% higher for remarriages. A majority of divorces occur in families with children under the age of 18.

Divorce propels adults and children into numerous adjustments and challenges. While great diversity exists in childrens adjustment to divorce, and a majority of children weather the transition and become competent adults, up to a quarter of children whose parents divorce experience ongoing emotional and behavior difficulties (as compared to 10% of children whose parents do not divorce).

Spouses divorce each other, but they do not divorce their children. A majority of former spouses are able to establish a relatively conflict-free parenting relationship for the benefit of their children. However, about a third have difficulty in establishing a workable parenting relationship, even years after the divorce.

In her research on divorcing parents, family therapist Constance Ahrons identified different types of post-divorce parenting relationships: "perfect pals," "cooperative colleagues," "angry associates," "fiery foes," and "dissolved duos." However, even when parents are "angry associates" or "fiery foes," there are ways they can develop cooperative or business-like relationships for the sake of their children. Parental conflict can hinder children's adjustment and good coparenting skills are very important to a child's adjustment.

Most parents who have a difficult relationship with their ex-spouse but who want to coparent start out with "parallel parenting." In this arrangement, each parent assumes total responsibility for the children during the time they are together; there is no expectation of flexibility and little contact with the other parent. As time goes on and anger dissipates, parents may develop some version of "cooperative parenting." In this arrangement, parents communicate directly and in a business-like manner regarding the children and coparenting schedules. Marriage and family therapists can be helpful to families as they formulate or define their post-divorce parenting relationships.

How can you help your children?

How do you know when to seek help?

When your children show signs of stress:

When you or your partner begins to:

What help is available for divorcing parents and children?

Consumer Resources:

Ahrons, C. R. (1994). The good divorce: Keeping your family together when your marriage comes apart. New York: HarperCollins.
The point of the Ahrons book is not that divorce is good, but that there is such a thing as a good divorce, in which couples part without destroying each other and their children. She concludes that about 50% of couples had cooperative coparental relationships one year post-divorce.

Blau, M. (1993). Families apart: Ten keys to successful co-parenting. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
This book focuses on what separating parents need to know if they are thinking about coparenting. Blau identifies ten "keys" to good parenting after a divorce; chapters are organized around these keys. Blau lists many resources for parents and age-appropriate books for children.

Everett, C., & Everett, S. V. (1994). Healthy divorce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
This book describes 14 stages of adjustment from marital erosion through separation, mediation, and remarriage. Helpful ideas given for coparenting and mediating.

Gold, L. (1992). Between love and hate: A guide to civilized divorce. New York: Plenum Press.
This hands-on guide to the divorce process provides assessments and exercises that help parents learn to resolve conflict, improve communication, and avoid costly legal battles.

Lansky, V. (1991). Vicki Lansky's divorce book for parents. New York: Signet.
This inexpensive paperback book is a comprehensive guide that includes such topics as: telling the children, talking with your ex-spouse, dealing with support payments, dating, sex and the single parent, knowing when to get professional help, and handling holidays.

The text for this brochure was written by Karen R. Blaisure, Ph.D. and Margie J. Geasler, Ph.D.

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