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Do children of divorce ever adjust completely?

No matter how well parents try to shield their children from the effects of their divorce, all children have to adjust in their own way and on their own timetable to the new normal.

Depending on the ages of the children when the divorce occurs, the effects will be quite different and may be delayed by a few years. Parents who thought their 6-year-old son acclimated quite readily to the new circumstances surrounding his family unit may be taken aback at the angst and vitriol spewing from the same child at 12.

Many adolescents develop coping mechanisms that help them to adjust to a divorce. However, they can also take on the adult role of interventionist or mediator in family disputes, which is never healthy. Younger kids might lack the cognitive awareness and resources to sort out for themselves that while things are now different, they are still okay. This can result in anxiety and regressive behaviors.

These factors and more should all be weighed carefully by the parents and the courts when determining custody and visitation issues. Below are some tips to smooth the transition.

-- Allow children to spend time at both parents' homes without guilt or conflict. Otherwise, the children's relationship with their non-custodial parent may be irrevocably broken.

-- Parents can provide stability by remaining consistent about rules, bedtimes and forbidden activities. Likewise, maintaining their children's participation in pleasurable activities like dance classes or Boy Scouts keep them on an even keel.

Both parents should strive to provide a nurturing, stable environment where their children are able to feel secure in both parents' homes. If you feel that your child is experiencing more adjustment problems than they can handle on their own, ask your family law attorney for some counseling referrals to help your son or daughter accept the circumstances and move on.

Source: PsychPage, "Children of Divorce and Adjustment," Richard Niolon, PhD, accessed April. 24, 2015

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