Memoirs of a Psychologist: Raising Resilient Kids After Divorce
The following is a piece on pre-teen parenting tips, co-authored with psychologist Robert Erdei. We partnered with Dr. Erdei to create a series of blog posts geared specifically toward the difficult parenting challenges we were experiencing ourselves. We call this series, "Memoirs of a Psychologist". We hope you enjoy this piece and please don't hesitate to leave a comment below with your thoughts.
It is cliché, but it’s also true: divorce takes its toll on each and every member of the family. As we have already described in earlier parts of the “Effects of Divorce” series, women, men and children all suffer and have to face certain hardships as they recover from a divorce.
What happens when the dust settles, though? Divorce isn’t just the end but it’s also the beginning as well. Men, women, children – we’re all resilient.
We Are Resilient By Nature
Resilience can be defined as successful coping and development despite facing adversity and risks.The separation of parents certainly represents not just one, but in most cases many factors, which might undermine the ideal and optimal development of children.
Divorce itself is considered as a risk factor, but its effects do not stop with the ending of the marriage and one parent moving away from the nuclear family. I think many of us have had to make the difficult decision to split. But often times, marital conflicts leading to the process of divorce are all risks that outweigh the notion of staying together and the decision to separate or divorce actually becomes the lesser of two evils.
The list of risks associated with a child’s development can be lengthy and have far-ranging effects, without a doubt. Risk has an exponential effect; one factor alone does not substantially increase the chances of behavioral or developmental issues compared to children who face no risk, but the presence of four or more factors has been shown to cause behavioral problems in more than half of the children studied.
Considering the above-mentioned risks, four identified risks can be easily experienced by a child during a divorce.
Strengthening Children’s Resilience
How do we protect our children from the stressors almost guaranteed to follow a divorce? As parents, we try to enhance their innate capacity of resilience and build upon it.
In essence, we build them up to make them stronger.
Potential suffering can be eased and we could expect better developmental and behavioral outcomes from the children. It is terrible to say, but it is almost impossible to save them from pain inflicted by a divorce, but it is possible to teach them how to cope with it.
Reinforcing the natural resilience of our children requires the presence of protective or compensating factors that counter the negative effect of risks. The more protective factors we have, the more risk our children can tackle and the greater likelihood they will emerge intact. Factors enabling or supporting optimal development can stem from the individual, the family or the broader social community. Protective factors can focus on the individual as well, with three broad categories:
I AM, I HAVE and I CAN.
Reinforcing Resilience With I Am, I Have and I Can
The first category, “I am”, represents the inner strengths of the child, lovability, easy temperament, sense of duty, responsibility, faith and hope to name some examples.
The second group, “I have”, includes external support and resources. For example strong, secure and emotionally stable relationships with caring adults, the structure of the home environment, positive role models, the encouragement of autonomy and access to various services, for example, high-quality education, health care, welfare and security.
The third in the list of factors, “I can”, relates to skills and knowledge. Social and interpersonal skills constitute this group, like problem solving, the control of impulses, adequate evaluation of the temperament of others as well as the child’s own or the active seeking of stable relationships.
Resilience Related to Age
Resilience naturally relates to the age of the child. As a child ages and develops, the signs of their resilience mature with their successful completion of developmental tasks. For example, a school-age child is doing well in school, he or she is able to form friendships and get along with other children and is able to follow the rules at home and school. Adolescents focus more on intimate friendships and higher levels of academic performance.
No one can endure forever, though. While children have proven their ability to bounce back, research data suggests that children and youth who have struggled with adversities and disadvantages every day show symptoms of inner distress. Resilience does not make you invulnerable, but it does allow you to fight and come out as a winner – and a happy and healthy adult.
Other Memoirs of a Psychologist Posts:
One of the greatest risks for children who experience divorce may be that they learn it as the sole solution to marital problems.Read More
Psychologist Dr. Robert Erdei weighs in on the effects of divorce on men with this newest piece in the “Memoirs of a Psychologist” series.Read More
Another great piece from Dr. Robert Erdei writing about one of his passions and specialties: Raising Resilient Kids After Divorce. How do children of divorce survive and thrive?Read More
Psychologist Robert Erdei weighs in with some pre-teen parenting challenges and tips for getting to know your son or daughter.Read More
Part I in our “defiant teens” series: Help for Parents of Defiant Teens: Part I – Is My Child Defiant? Psychologist Robert Erdei sheds light on a common problem.Read More
Dadtography.com presents another guest post from Psychologist Robert Erdei where he helps parents deal with pre-teen behavior challenges and solutions.Read More
An overview of Asperger Syndrome in children by Dr. Robert Erdei including symptoms, diagnosis and what to expect if you suspect your child has Asperger Syndrome.Read More
Another great Memoirs of a Psychologist piece is for parents: Selective Mutism in Children. What are the causes, treatments and what to expect.Read More
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