No parent will ever forget the first time they held and hugged their child as a baby. Showing affection to your children has been proven to help them become happy and successful adults. Now that you’re getting a divorce, you may be wondering how raising your child in two separate households will impact their happiness and success.
Parents who are able to peacefully co-parent with their ex-spouse and have their child or children’s best interests in mind can still raise children who turn out to be happy and healthy adults. Numerous studies have shown that a parent’s unconditional love and affection is the single most important parenting factor in a child becoming a happy and successful adult. When children see their co-parents getting along instead of being exposed to conflict, it is easier for them to feel loved. Combine that with the positive attention and affection the parents offer, and the chances the child will be negatively impacted by the divorce goes down.
According to family research conducted by psychologists, approximately 80 percent of children of divorce don’t have lasting negative effects when it comes to their self-esteem, mental health, school performance and adjusting socially. This research shows that children who have good relationships with parents who get along and parents who are emotionally stable are fine when it comes to divorce. Parents don’t need to be married or living in the same house for the child to benefit from these positive relationships and feel loved.
You don’t need to stay married to be able to show your child unconditional love. Studies show children who know they are unconditionally loved, even when they are misbehaving or being disciplined, develop less anxiety as adults. Furthermore, the warmth, affection and love from a parent or both parents can biologically protect children from the harmful effects of experiencing great stress when they encounter adversity in life, such as poor physical health, both as children and later as adults.
Here are ways you can co-parent while ensuring your child knows both parents love the child unconditionally:
- Speak to and about your ex-spouse respectfully: It is confusing for a child who loves one parent to hear another parent speak negatively about their co-parent, or one parent talking down to the other. For a child to feel secure and loved in his or her relationship with both parents, the child has to see the parents getting along and communicating peacefully.
- Show your co-parent the same patience you show your child:We are all human and make mistakes. It is easy to turn a tiny miscommunication such as mistakenly stating the wrong time for when your child’s school event starts into a yelling match. However, this conflict will only cause negative feelings in your child when he or she is exposed to the tension, even if you aren’t yelling in front of your child. Just as you are patient toward your child, try to be patient with your co-parent. After all, you will have to parent with this person for years to come.
- Put yourself in your child’s shoes and never ask them to choose sides: Even if both parents show a child warmth, love and affection separately in their own homes, asking a child to choose sides or having heated arguments with your co-parent may make your child question how genuine your positive feelings are toward the child. A child may wonder, “How come mom is so sweet to me, but so angry or mean to my dad?” Children pick up on body language and non-verbal cues as well. In order for your child to believe you love him or her unconditionally, you have to model love and kindness toward others, including toward your co-parent. This doesn’t mean you have to show love to your co-parent, but negative words or actions toward your co-parent only hurt your child. The child needs to know that even if he is with dad for the day, mom still loves the child, and vice versa.
Just as divorce doesn’t have to be an ugly battle that goes to court, co-parenting after a divorce can be a positive experience for both the parents and children involved. A family law attorney can help you find ways to ensure your divorce process and the legal decisions you make during divorce do not ruin the chances of a good, peaceful co-parenting relationship in the long-run.