"When it comes to communication and child development for children of divorce, studies have shown how undeveloped communication skills can have adverse effects on the parent-child relationship, especially as the child gets older."
Depending on their age, children of divorce already are dealing with a lot of changes in their lives. Whether it is the changes occurring with their bodies or the changes occurring in the marriage of their parents, they are forced to deal with the emotional fallout of the divorce experience, without much say in the matter.
Without warning, they are given the task of making sense of what is going on in their lives, knowing that their lives will forever be changed. Some do not feel like they can be open about what they are going through. Without someone engaging them, as to their feelings regarding the situation, they may keep it all inside and lose that part of their communicative development.
Understanding communicative development
Communicative development is important for children, regardless of their parents’ marital status. Within the first three years of their life, children are acquiring speech and language skills during the development and the maturation of the brain, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
They reach various milestones at various ages. When an infant becomes aware that a cry will bring comfort, food, and companionship, they begin to recognize the importance of communication. They begin to sort out the speech sounds that compose the words of their native language.
As they get older, they begin to understand the importance of context and voice. They understand how to react when a parent speaks to them versus how a peer speaks to them. They recognize what is going on in their lives and learn how to adapt.
Learning to adapt
Adapting to a new situation is necessary during a parental divorce. It requires processing the emotions of the experience, which unfortunately can be challenging for many children, depending on their age and maturity level. This is why they need to be engaged in communication.
Asking how a child is doing is a normal occurrence, even when a major life event is not occurring. When one is, it is important to not dance around it, but to proceed with care and reverence to their complex emotional state. If they wish to communicate their feelings or even just have an average conversation about what has been going on at school, then let them. Keeping the ball in their court will allow their comfort and your ease of mind as a parent, going through your own crisis.
Importance of open communication
After a divorce, a child’s environment can sometimes resemble two single parent homes, which is why many studies that monitor single parent homes also account for children of divorce. One study in particular, from Western Kentucky University, explored family communication patterns and observed how the dynamic affected how the child expressed themselves.
According to the study, open communication had a significant impact on how participants felt about their relationships with custodial parents. Particularly, those that were raised by their fathers felt as though open communication was an import part of their relationship, regardless if it was a father/son or father/daughter relationship.
Those with the open line of communication expressed how fortunate they are to have that with their fathers, and those who did not, wished for it, thinking it would produce a better relationship.
Part of the reason why communication is so affected in the parent-child relationship during and after a divorce is the amount of sharing that may take place. If a parent feels that a child is old enough or mature enough to handle information regarding the divorce, they may begin to communicate aspects of what they are going through, thus shifting the power dynamic, according to Option B, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people build resilience in the face of adversity.
This includes body language, but it is important to remember to stay mindful. The emotions you display to your child can affect the opinion that your child has of you, as well as their other parent. Having both parents available in their life is too important for a child’s development for one parent to influence the child’s opinion of another parent.
Communication patterns and emerging adulthood
When it comes to communication and child development for children of divorce, studies have shown how undeveloped communication skills can have adverse effects on the parent-child relationship, especially as the child gets older.
According to a study from Walden University, children of divorce are less likely to have communication behaviors modeled to them, resulting undeveloped communication and therefore a higher likelihood to get divorced themselves.
The findings of the study suggest that the emerging adulthood of children of divorce share a relationship with their communication patterns and that they are in a particularly vulnerable position, due to the importance placed on romantic relationships as you get older. Because of how children may pick up on the unhealthy communication skills of their parents, they have a higher likelihood of applying them in future relationships.
With the way children of divorce communicate as they reach adulthood, it becomes more and more important for them to unlearn negative communication patterns. In order to do that, they need to recognize the unhealthiness of them and understand that what occurred in the communication breakdowns within their parents’ relationship may not be the best takeaway to emulate.
No matter what their age may be, divorced co-parents need to recognize these behaviors and patterns and encourage an open line of communication to make sure that their common children have a brighter future.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.