"The stress of a divorce is something that ever individual may handle different, and as a parent, it is never easy seeing your child struggle with something stressful that you and your co-parent have brought into their lives."
Stress is a common occurrence when you have a family. You are constantly thinking about the responsibilities that you may have and how you will address them. Between your job, your home, your car, you family, your health, and your overall happiness, it is a lot to worry about.
When faced with the responsibilities and worries of daily life, many couples find themselves ill-prepared and undergoing a trial by fire. They can either sink or swim.
Neither outcome is something that the divorcing couples should be ashamed of. Unhappiness and dysfunction can be found in any relationship, and it is understandable that the mounting differences caused by stressful situations may damage the relationship.
This is an example of family stress theory in a form of practice.
According to FAST, the Families and Schools Together organization that specializes in education and parental engagement, family stress theory defines and explores the periodic, acute stressors that happen to all families. As the stressors, personal crises, and family crises, become more frequent, the family unit can find itself growing under the stress or deteriorating, depending on the individuals involved, according to Northern Arizona University.
These crises can disrupt a child’s sense of security, given the marital discord occurring. As the stresses of the situation mount, the family unit often shifts into a period of transition as a divorce is decided upon.
Marital discord and the often subsequent divorce are times of stress and transition for all members of a family unit. With the marriage at the core of the unit ending, blame is often assigned in multiple directions, as the divorce process unfolds.
Because of how children in this situation still create a link between the parents, many, including the children, still view a divorced couple as a family unit. Because of that perception, coping strategies for the stresses of this transitional period are examined through the lens of family stress theory.
A study, published by the National Council on Family Relations, examined the stresses associated with major role transitions and family coping strategies during the divorce process. They found that rather than dissolving the concept of the family, divorce culminates in redefining what the family is from a nuclear to a binuclear system.
The study found that because of the link that divorced parents share, in their children, the continuation of their relationship as co-parents, as well as the relationship between parents and children, all can reduce major stresses associated with the changes in the family structure.
Many researchers have begun to examine the role that resilience plays, as it relates to family stress theory during the divorce process. According to child development and family social sciences professor Pauline Boss, the binuclear family unit that has gone through the divorce experiences growth within the family for having gone through the stress.
They are better equipped to identify how individual perceptions, interpretations and beliefs of the stressful events during the divorce process are subject to reframing or retelling, depending on the individual. They understand that many construct a new narrative to past events, in order to help themselves manage stressful situations.
This also makes them better at identifying when the reframing is outside of the truth. They are able to analyze what fraction of the truth exists in the narrative being told and expand upon that, citing evidence and discrediting false reports.
The stress of the individual is often the focus on many behavioral studies during the divorce experience, but understanding how the stress of the individual affects the binuclear family unit can be necessary in helping those in the unit, especially children.
Helping your child
Children are often in the crossfires of the marital discord and divorce experience, as parents vie for child custody, visitation, and parenting time. Because of how disruptive this experience can be, they can begin to exhibit unusual behaviors, due to the stress of the situation.
Daily routines are adversely affected through the disruption of rituals, personal schedules, shared schedules, habits, and repetitious environmental stimuli. However, parents can counteract the impact of these disruptions through a positive social relationship with their child.
Talking to a child and explaining to them why a disruption to their routine is occurring will help them understand it better and not make them want to fight against it less. Parents are better able to nurture their child, despite the stressors of divorce.
The stress of a divorce is something that ever individual may handle different, and as a parent, it is never easy seeing your child struggle with something stressful that you and your co-parent have brought into their lives. However, understanding how it can affect them and affect the family as a whole is a step toward knowledge, improving your interactions and coping strategies moving forward.