Divorcing or Remarrying? Leave No Rock Unturned for Your Children

August 25th, 2011

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the high divorce rate in the U.S. for first marriages; it’s approximately 50%.  A less well-known fact is that approximately 60-70% of second marriages end in divorce. Divorce, first or second, affects millions of children in the U.S.  And, the negative effects of divorce on children have been well documented in published works, including The Journal of Marriage and the Family and The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. So, how are we doing with checking on the children during these critical turning points in their lives?

According to Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee in What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce, many parents don’t recognize that divorce is a turning point. “They hope that their relationships with their children won’t change very much after divorce.” And, furthermore, “They’ve probably been told by attorneys or therapists that if they behave with civility toward their ex, make a fair financial plan, and allow each child to have good access to both parents, the stress of the divorce will be short-lived.”

According to Wallerstein and Blakeslee, “that’s not the children’s experience.” And, I would argue that it isn’t the case with a remarriage either. Experts report that it takes approximately seven years for a stepfamily to “successfully blend.” And, some even say it takes 12 years. Either way, such transitions do not occur quickly and require a great deal of time and effort. Chances are greater for success if you don’t just let things happen while you are on autopilot.

In other words, be proactive when it comes to your child’s mental and emotional health during divorce and/or remarriage. I often hear about adults seeking assistance for their children after a problem occurs; e.g., a decline in grades, behavioral issues, depression, etc.  Wallerstein and Blakeslee urge parents to be aware that the kids have an entirely different take on things compared to the parents. And, they point out that the kids’ feelings can last well into adulthood.

A great way to begin being proactive is to seek out resources that deal with divorce and/or remarriage. There are some very helpful and insightful books that have been written, such as The Secrets to Stepfamily Success: Revolutionary Tools to Create a Blended Family of Support and Respect by Gloria Lintermans. She sheds light on common stepfamily myths in areas such as loyalty issues, discipline, incomplete grief, and explains how for children, “the transition from one family structure to another, and another, creates a long period of upheaval and stress.”

More importantly, Lintermans’ book and others can open your eyes to the issues they may be bothering your children whether you know it or not. Once you are aware of all of the potential challenges that divorce and/or remarriage can pose for your children, one of the most important things to do is to help your child connect and communicate. Be proactive!

Why not seek the assistance of a professional therapist who has experience with working with stepfamilies before someone in your family faces problems? Why not join a divorce or stepfamily support group if that is the lifestyle you are embracing? Why not talk to people who have successfully navigated through divorce and remarriage journeys?

Staying focused on your children and anticipating what to expect when you divorce or remarry with children is a healthy thing. You anticipate their needs daily in many ways to ensure they have happy and successful lives by way of check-ups with their doctors and dentists, back-to-school teacher conferences, sports practices, and more. Why not be prepared and help them through the big changes in your life that impact them tremendously as well?

About Paula

Paula Bisacre is publisher of www.RemarriageWorks.com, the go-to resource for remarriage and stepfamily living. She is the founder of Remarriage LLC, a multimedia company that provides information, community, and products that enhance the experience of remarriage and stepfamily living. As a trusted expert and advocate, Paula frequently speaks, writes and consults about stepfamily issues and was the creator of the monthly remarriage column in The Washington Times. She has also authored the book, Journal for Stepmoms.

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