Oftentimes, divorce is a complicated and emotionally draining process. Not only are the divorcing parents affected, but individuals outside of the relationship, especially children, also face serious mental and emotional exhaustion. That is why it is important for divorcing parents or parents suffering marriage problems to explain these types of decisions to children before, during, and after the process.
Sadly, many parents become so wrapped up in the intricacies of divorce that they fail to notice the negative impacts their children suffer throughout the process. Recently, research from two different studies has shown that selfish acts committed by divorcing couples, such as arguing and acting indifferent towards each other, can leave children confused, angry, depressed, and even cause severe side effects such as difficulty sleeping.
The First Study: How Divorce Can Disturb Children’s Sleep Patterns
In one study, researchers from Auburn University and Brown University monitored 54 healthy children from ages 8 to 9 by speaking to them and their parents about their family lives and relationships. During the course of the study, the children wore a device on their wrists called an Actigraph, which was used to track their sleep patterns. Results showed that children in families with moderate to severe conflict levels lost about 30 minutes of sleep a night compared to those in lower conflict settings. Researchers state that this amount of sleep loss could also create negative effects in children’s behaviors and attitudes.
The Second Study: How Marital Conflict Can Affect a Child’s Emotional State
In another study, researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Rochester studied 223 children and their parents to determine how conflict between parents can affect children’s emotional states. The result proved that children who were around parents who participated in hostile or indifferent interactions were more likely to suffer emotional difficulties than those exposed to cordial parents. The study also proved children do no become less sensitive to these issues. Instead, they become more reactive and delicate to such situations.
How Parents Should Behave in Front of Children
Because children’s minds and emotions are much more delicate than adults’, it is important that parents maintain healthy relationships and interactions when in front of their children. Furthermore, parents should focus on mediation by participating in the following practices:
- Focus their attention on the needs of the children first
- Resolve problems in a constructive and respectful manner in front of the children
- Create open relationships with their children so they can speak to each parent about their needs and feelings
- Work with the other spouse to ensure children understand situations at an appropriate level
- If you are a stepparent and your stepchildren still communicate with their biological parent(s), create a good relationship with the biological parent to ensure the children do not feel forced to make difficult decisions in various situations